Employer-sponsored workouts increase physical activity, researchers say
Workplace programs that encourage employees to set exercise goals can substantially increase workers' physical activity, according to a study by the University of Georgia.
The study, published in the February edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined more than 1,400 employees at 16 Home Depot sites throughout the United States and Canada. For three months, the individuals set weekly personal and team physical activity goals and received incentives for meeting them. After six weeks, 51 percent of the participants did at least five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions or three 20-minute vigorous exercise sessions weekly -- up from 31 percent at the study's start. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of those in a control group of nonparticipants logged similar exercise sessions. Researchers said the participants maintained their increased levels of activity throughout the study, with few employees dropping out.
"The biggest surprise was the steady and sustained progress," said Rod Dishman, lead researcher and professor of exercise science in UGA's College of Education. "That can probably be explained by the social incentives and support from personal goals and achievements that had direct impact on team success."
Dishman said the program, dubbed "Move to Improve," is based on the idea that setting realistic exercise goals -- such as gradually increasing weekly exercise times by 10-minute increments -- can help employees get active and stay that way. Workers were given handbooks to help them set their personal exercise goals and overcome obstacles to staying active. For extra motivation, they were split into small teams and each came up with a group exercise goal, providing vital peer encouragement.
March 2, 2009
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