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Physical Activity at Work

Benefits of Environments with Supports for Physical Activity

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Worksites that offer supports for physical activity help employees and clients by making the healthy choice an easy choice. Opportunities to be physically active reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Access to physical activity opportunities also helps to create a healthier workforce by supporting people who are trying to be more active or lose weight. Working toward policies that require opportunities to be physically active in worksites should be a high priority for worksite wellness coordinators and committees.

State Employees Support Physical Activity Opportunities 

From a survey of Oregon State Agency Employees in 2007:

  • 56% of employees report that they do not meet CDC physical activity recommendations (moderate activity for > 30 minutes 5 days/week OR vigorous activity for > 20 minutes 3 days/week)
  • 55% of employees report that their worksite does not have a policy that allows employees to use flextime to include physical activity in their schedule.
  • Among worksites with a flextime policy, 54% of employees report that they use it for physical activity.
  • Among worksites without a flextime policy, 87% of employees report that they would choose to use it for physical activity if the worksite offered it. 

People are physically active for many reasons, including chronic disease prevention or management, weight loss, stress management, reducing the costs and pollution associated with commuting, and for fun. However, too often the worksite makes it very challenging for people to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Policies that provide opportunities to be physically active will result in a healthier work environment for everyone.
There are many opportunities for the workplace to provide support for physical activity. Rather than trying to change everything at once, it makes sense to take it one area at a time, depending on the support in the worksite.
Options for policy change include:

  • Flex Time for Physical Activity
  • Subsidized Mass Transit
  • Health Club / Fitness Class Discounts
  • Support for Bicycle Commuting
  • Physical Activity Breaks During Meetings 

Establishing Policies to Support Physical Activity at Work

Key steps in establishing policies to support physical activity in the workplace include:

  • Gaining support from leadership – an essential step that may take some time
  • Forming a workgroup to develop the policy language
  • Establishing a timeline to introduce, adopt, communicate, and implement the policy
  • Providing management and staff trainings on systems, roles and responsibilities
  • Communicating the “why and how” of the policy through worksite publications and/or community media
  • Monitoring and supporting implementation

Resources to Assist Workplaces

Related Journal Articles

  • Dodson EA, Lovegreen SL, Elliott MB, Haire-Joshu D, Brownson RC. Worksite Policies and Environments Supporting Physical Activity in Midwestern Communities. American Journal of Health Promotion: (2008) 23, 1; 51–55
  • Lachapelle U, Frank LD Transit and Health: Mode of Transport, Employer-Sponsored Public Transit Pass Programs, and Physical Activity.  Journal of Public Health Policy (2009) 30, S73–S94.