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Physical Activity

Woman runnig on treadmillOnce assessment and planning have been completed, including analysis of the collected data, the next step is implementing the strategies and interventions that will comprise the workplace health program.  The intervention descriptions below provide the public health evidence baseThe development, implementation, and evaluation of effective programs and policies in public health through application of principles of scientific reasoning, including systematic uses of data and information systems, and appropriate use of behavioral science theory and program planning models. for each intervention, details on designing physical activity interventions, and links to examples and resources.

Before implementing any interventions, the evaluation plan should also be developed. Potential baseline, process, health outcome, and organizational change measures for these programs are listed under evaluation of physical activity programs.

Regular physical activity is one of the most effective disease prevention behaviors.  Physical activity programs:

Physical activity programs can range from simple to extensive, with varying implementation costs. The primary purposes of workplace interventions are to encourage employee education and physical activity.

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Health-related programs for physical activity1-3

Employee programs refer to activities that include active employee involvement such as classes, seminars or competitions. Employee programs are frequently provided on-site at the workplace.

Individually-adapted health behavior change physical activity programs have demonstrated success and can be offered in the workplace

  • The Task Force for Community Preventive Services has found that health promotion activities tailored to an individual’s specific needs increase the likelihood of beginning an exercise program and increase the frequency of exercise.  Individualized programs have resulted in a 35% increase in the amount of time individuals spend in physical activity
  • Employee education programs for physical activity include individual counseling after an employee health survey. Individualized programs for behavior change and personalized counseling by nurses or health educators are effective in increasing an individual’s physical activity.  This counseling and education may include:
    • Setting personalized goals and monitoring progress toward achieving them
    • Building social support for new behaviors
    • Reinforcing behavior change with awards
    • Developing new problem-solving approaches to enable the individual to maintain behavior change
  • Educational materials can be distributed in the workplace through classes, bulletin boards, newsletters, and high traffic locations such as the company cafeteria
  • Social support programs are also effective at improving participation in physical activity. Examples can include company sports teams or walking clubs. Company departments can compete with each other in walking clubs, softball, tennis, golf and other events, which develop and maintain commitment to physical activity

Tools and Resources

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Health-related policies for physical activity4

Workplace policies promote a corporate “culture of good healthThe creation of a working environment where employee health and safety is valued, supported and promoted through workplace health programs, policies, benefits, and environmental supports. Building a Culture of Health involves all levels of the organization and establishes the workplace health program as a routine part of business operations aligned with overall business goals. The results of this culture change include engaged and empowered employees, an impact on health care costs, and improved worker productivity..”

Flextime can provide more physical activity opportunities for employees

Tools and Resources

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Health benefits for physical activity5-7

Employee health benefits are part of an overall compensation package and affect an employee’s willingness to seek preventive services and clinical care.

Partnering with local fitness facilities such as local gyms, YMCAs, and similar programs can increase employee physical activity
  • Enhancing access to places for physical activity combined with information outreach is an important strategy to encourage employees to become more physically active
  • Not all worksites have facilities, classes, or space for physical activity programs and some employees may find membership fees or a facility’s hours of operation prohibitive to participating.
  • While not an evidence-based community guide recommendation, employers can provide opportunities and reduce barriers related to access or cost by partnering with local fitness facilities. Implementing an incentive where memberships are provided to local fitness facilities and physical activity programs and membership fees are reduced or subsidized can increase access and reduce barriers such as cost for employees   

Tools and Resources

  • The CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative includes information on selecting fitness centers
  • CDC is collaborating with the YMCA and other partners on the Activate America Initiative. This initiative will bring together government, business, not for profits, schools, media, and other community partners to address the health of Americans

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Environmental support for physical activity2,8

Environmental support provides a worksite physically designed to encourage good health.

Worksite campus design encourages incorporating physical activity into daily routines
  • Encouraging employee physical activity on-site can include building safe walking trails or paths on the company campus, installing showers for joggers and exercisers, and installing gyms with aerobic and weight training equipment (with instructions on proper equipment use)

Encouraging stairwell use is easy and effective.
  • Encouraging stairwell use deserves special attention as it is an inexpensive, proven approach to increasing employee physical activity.  Use of “point of decision” signs (i.e., brief messages encouraging stairwell use) near elevators or escalators can increase stair use (median net increase of 53.9%)
  • Effective encouragement requires more than signs. Improvements in stairwell safety and appearance, such as carpeting and lighting to make stair climbing more secure and bright wall colors to increase stairwell appeal are relatively inexpensive ways to enhance stair use

Tools and Resources

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