Background: Interventions designed to increase workplace physical activity may not automatically reduce high volumes of sitting, a behaviour independently linked to chronic diseases such as obesity and type II diabetes. This study compared the impact two different walking strategies had on step counts and reported sitting times.
Methods: Participants were white-collar university employees (n = 179; age 41.3 +/- 10.1 years; 141 women), who volunteered and undertook a standardised ten-week intervention at three sites. Pre-intervention step counts (Yamax SW-200) and self-reported sitting times were measured over five consecutive workdays. Using pre-intervention step counts, employees at each site were randomly allocated to a control group (n = 60; maintain normal behaviour), a route-based walking group (n = 60; at least 10 minutes sustained walking each workday) or an incidental walking group (n = 59; walking in workday tasks). Workday step counts and reported sitting times were re-assessed at the beginning, mid- and endpoint of intervention and group mean+/- SD steps/day and reported sitting times for pre-intervention and intervention measurement points compared using a mixed factorial ANOVA; paired sample-t-tests were used for follow-up, simple effect analyses.
Results: A significant interactive effect (F = 3.5; p < 0.003) was found between group and step counts. Daily steps for controls decreased over the intervention period (-391 steps/day) and increased for route (968 steps/day; t = 3.9, p < 0.000) and incidental (699 steps/day; t = 2.5, p < 0.014) groups. There were no significant changes for reported sitting times, but average values did decrease relative to the control (routes group = 7 minutes/day; incidental group = 15 minutes/day). Reductions were most evident for the incidental group in the first week of intervention, where reported sitting decreased by an average of 21 minutes/day (t = 1.9; p < 0.057).
Conclusion: Compared to controls, both route and incidental walking increased physical activity in white-collar employees. Our data suggests that workplace walking, particularly through incidental movement, also has the potential to decrease employee sitting times, but there is a need for on-going research using concurrent and objective measures of sitting, standing and walking.