Background: While the health benefits of physical activity are well established, little is known about health effects of physical activity programs initiated by employer.
Methods: Background data and level of physical activity were collected by questionnaire among 78 men and 43 women working in road maintenance pre and post an 8-week physical activity motivational program. As a part of the program steps measured by accelerometer were registered online where team and individual performances could be continuously monitored. The physical activity levels were registered as 1) those physical active ≤1 time per week, 2) 2-3 times per week and 3) ≥4 times a week. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), blood pressure, resting heart rate (RHR) and blood samples (glycosylated hemoglobin, lipids and C-reactive protein) were obtained at baseline and after eight weeks. Mixed models were applied to evaluate associations between physical activity and health parameters.
Results: With ≤1 time per week as reference, exercising 2-3 times per week at baseline was associated with higher levels of VO2max. During follow-up, VO2max increased with 2.8 mL ∙ kg(-1)∙ min(-1) (95 % CI = 1.4, 4.3). Women had more favorable body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, RHR and lipid profile than men. Total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL), RHR and diastolic blood pressure (dBP) were lower among participants who exercised 2-3 times per week or ≥4 times a week, compared with those with ≤1 time per week. Half of the participants reported increased daily PA during follow-up, with high intensity PA such as jogging by 8.6 min (SD 14.6) and 8.3 min (SD 18.2), among women and men, respectively. During follow-up dBP increased among men. Further, total cholesterol and LDL were reduced by 0.12 mmol/L and 0.13 mmol/L, respectively (95 % CI = -022, -0.01 and -0.22,-0.04).
Conclusions: Exercise several times a week was associated with lower blood pressure and a favorable lipid status compared to lower weekly activity. During the 8-week follow-up of an employer initiated exercise program VO2max increased, while total cholesterol and LDL were reduced.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN13033050 . Registered 21 August 2015.
Keywords: Blood lipids; Blood pressure; Employer initiated physical activity; Maximal oxygen uptake; Resting heart rate.