Office programs that persuade employees to set exercise goals help them become more active at the workplace, according to a new study that looked at physical activity levels of Home Depot employees who participated in the “Move to Improve” program.
Lead author Rod Dishman, Ph.D., said that the number of employees who regularly participated in either moderate or vigorous physical activity rose from about 30 percent at the start of the study to about 50 percent during the last six weeks of the study.
For the study, workers set personal and team physical activity goals weekly for three months, receiving incentives for achievement.
Throughout the intervention, researchers tracked changes in the 1,442 participants’ physical activity levels with pedometers.
At the end of sixth week of the study, 51 percent of program participants logged at least five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions or two to three 20-minute vigorous exercise sessions weekly, compared with only 25 percent of the control group.
Dishman said that the participants even sustained that level of activity through the end of the 12-week study, with few dropouts.
“The biggest pleasant surprise was the steady and sustained progress. That can probably be explained by the social incentives and support from personal goals and achievements that had direct impact on team success,” said Dishman.
Katherine Alaimo, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Michigan State University said that workplaces offer great opportunities for physical activity and wellness programs because they offer a captive audience.
She added that in the current study, success might be in part because investigators included a combination of things not usually in workplace wellness programs.
“They had individual goal setting — a common technique — but they also had group and organizational goal setting, which provided the peer encouragement that is necessary and important,” said Alaimo.
“Personal and team goals work best when they are self-set, specific about how much activity and when, realistic but attainable and easily assessed, such as by weekly logs or pedometer steps,” said Dishman.
The study will appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.