Challenges and opportunities for promoting physical activity in the workplace

J Sci Med Sport. 2004 Apr;7(1 Suppl):60-6. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(04)80279-2.


Although there would appear to be considerable potential for improving the health, productivity and quality of life of the Australian workforce through workplace physical activity (PA) promotion programs, the scientific evidence that such programs are effective is limited. This review appraises the quality of intervention studies conducted since 1997. Most studies included volunteer participants, who were either sufficiently motivated to change their behaviour or already active. Interventions that focused on corporate-fitness type programs and the provision of generic health education programs were not effective in terms of adequate participation rates and sustained behaviour change. The more successful individually-based programs were those which tailored materials to individual needs. The greatest potential for influencing the overall workforce appeared to be programs that included less 'organised' approaches and promoted incidental PA within and around the workplace. Future programs should; incorporate contemporary theories of behaviour and organisational change; emphasise linkages between the workplace and external settings; expand the profile of programs to address workplace culture; and encourage management support for behavioural adjustments to the organisation. There is a need for greater understanding and evaluation of desirable employer-related outcomes, such as reduced absenteeism, job stress and turnover and improved productivity and job satisfaction, coupled with the exploration of how these factors may relate to PA promotion and adoption. Finally, more in-depth evaluation strategies and complete descriptions of intervention programs are required, in order to identify the most effective strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Physical Fitness
  • Workplace