Worksite Intervention to Promote Physical Activity

Faculty Researcher: Anne G. Thomas, PhD, Assistant Professor of Community Health Nursing at the University of Michigan

Sedentary behavior is identified as a strong risk factor for chronic disease and conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, colon cancer and depression. Increased physical activity (PA) is associated with improved cognitive performance, mood, body image, self-esteem, increased functional ability and the general feeling of psychological well-being (USDHHS, 1996). Unfortunately, more than 60% of American adults do not engage in regular PA (USDHHS, 2000). Since many employees working in an academic setting have mostly sedentary jobs, a behavioral lifestyle intervention delivered in a worksite setting is an effective strategy to reach this group of adults who may not regularly participate in a PA within or outside of the work environment. However, there have been relatively few worksite interventions that designed to increase PA, specifically in the academic setting.

The purpose of this pilot project was to develop a worksite intervention to promote PA. Specific aims were to: 1) examine the influence of worksite PA cues on theory based variables (attitudes, behavioral beliefs, control beliefs, subjective norms. Perceived self-efficacy, intentions) and self-reported PA; 2) examine the impact of STEPS, a specific worksite PA program on PA behavior, blood pressure and body mass index, and 3) identify theory-based variables (attitudes, behavioral beliefs, control beliefs, subjective norms, perceived self-efficacy, intentions) that mediate effects of STEPS worksite intervention on participant’s self-reported PA behavior.

Focus groups and a pre-post test design were used to develop and evaluate the effects of the worksite PA intervention. Participants were recruited from the faculty and staff at a School of Nursing in a Midwestern state. Twelve staff and seven faculty participated in the focus groups, 98 in answering the web-based survey in Phase II, and 58 in the 12 week STEPS intervention in Phase III.

Repeated analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to examine the key variables in Aim I. The STEPS intervention significantly increased behavioral and attitudinal beliefs related to worksite PA. Repeated ANOVA was used to examine Aim 2 with forty four out of the 59 subjects completing pre and post test measurements. Two findings were significant for the BMI post intervention: 1) younger aged subjects had higher BMI values, middle-aged subjects had lower values and the older age group remained the same and; 2) baccalaureate and doctorally educated subjects had higher BMI measures after the intervention while master’s educated subjects had higher values pre-intervention. Time was marginally significant (p=0.062) for decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurement. Preliminary examination of Aim 3 reveals an insufficient amount of data to adequately analyze mediating factors as related in the theoretical model.

Findings suggest promising results of a work-site intervention to increase walking at the work site. Decreases in self-efficacy suggest the need for stronger boosters throughout the intervention.


Research trainee’s current position:
Anne Thomas is currently an Associate Professor and Dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Nursing.