Encouraging adults to be more active – evidence briefing on the role of the workplace

This week I’m thinking about how to get healthy adults doing more exercise and I found myself pondering if it was all so much easier back in the 1970s. Not only did we lack all sorts of technology which allows us to move less and burn fewer calories, but it was the age of disco, and I look back and see my younger elf in a world where the message (when we were not being told to prepare for imminent nuclear destruction) was ‘get up and boogie’!

That perhaps was all very well for those of us still in the playground and a long way off the invention of the xbox. But what about the adults? An obvious setting for trying to encourage adults to adopt healthy behaviours is the workplace. Evidence for Action at NHS Health Scotland has published a useful evidence briefing on workplace interventions to promote physical activity. As with all their briefings, which are updated every three months, it draws on evidence from key organisations such as the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN), the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cochrane Collaboration.

The take-home message of the briefing is that physical activity interventions delivered in the workplace can be effective in increasing employees’ physical activity levels. There is evidence of effectiveness of implementation at both policy/organisation level as well as programme delivery level.

Here’s what they found:

  • posters/signs can increase stair (instead of lift) use, but possibly only in the short term
  • workplace walking interventions using pedometers that focus on goal setting, self-monitoring and walking routes can increase step count
  • a campaign using written materials to promote walking and cycling to work can increase walking but not cycling to work in economically advantaged women
  • workplace health screening can positively impact physical activity but interventions varied and it is unclear which components are beneficial
  • employee-designed interventions that include written information, active commuting, stair use, led walks, fitness testing and counselling can have a positive effect on physical activity
  • there is some evidence that self-directed interventions are effective

The briefing goes on to give examples of how the evidence could be implemented and also lists other briefings on the topic of physical activity.

Having looked at the video clip of Silver Convention performing ‘Get Up and Boogie’ in 1975, it doesn’t look like this had any impact on the adults, for I have never seen a more inert audience! You can see for yourselves here.


Physical activity 2: Workplace interventions to promote physical activity [PDF]. NHS Scotland Health Evidence Briefing. 24 October 2012.

Healthscotland.com Effectiveness Evidence Briefings

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Sarah Chapman

My name is Sarah Chapman. I have worked on systematic reviews and other types of research in many areas of health for the past 17 years, for the Cochrane Collaboration and for several UK higher education institutions including the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute. I also have a background in nursing and in the study of the History of Medicine.

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