Psychosocial benefits of workplace physical exercise: cluster randomized controlled trial

BMC Public Health. 2017 Oct 10;17(1):798. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4728-3.


Background: While benefits of workplace physical exercise on physical health is well known, little is known about the psychosocial effects of such initiatives. This study evaluates the effect of workplace versus home-based physical exercise on psychosocial factors among healthcare workers.

Methods: A total of 200 female healthcare workers (Age: 42.0, BMI: 24.1) from 18 departments at three hospitals were cluster-randomized to 10 weeks of: 1) home-based physical exercise (HOME) performed alone during leisure time for 10 min 5 days per week or 2) workplace physical exercise (WORK) performed in groups during working hours for 10 min 5 days per week and up to 5 group-based coaching sessions on motivation for regular physical exercise. Vitality and mental health (SF-36, scale 0-100), psychosocial work environment (COPSOQ, scale 0-100), work- and leisure disability (DASH, 0-100), control- (Bournemouth, scale 0-10) and concern about pain (Pain Catastrophizing Scale, scale 0-10) were assessed at baseline and at 10-week follow-up.

Results: Vitality as well as control and concern about pain improved more following WORK than HOME (all p < 0.05) in spite of increased work pace (p < 0.05). Work- and leisure disability, emotional demands, influence at work, sense of community, social support and mental health remained unchanged. Between-group differences at follow-up (WORK vs. HOME) were 7 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 3 to 10] for vitality, -0.8 [95% CI -1.3 to -0.3] for control of pain and -0.9 [95% CI -1.4 to -0.5] for concern about pain, respectively.

Conclusions: Performing physical exercise together with colleagues during working hours was more effective than home-based exercise in improving vitality and concern and control of pain among healthcare workers. These benefits occurred in spite of increased work pace.

Trial registration: NCT01921764 at . Registered 10 August 2013.

Keywords: Biopsychosocial; Mental health; Musculoskeletal disorders; Occupational health; Pain; Patient handling; Social capital; Strength training; Vitality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Home Care Services
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health Services*
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology*
  • Personnel, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Workplace

Associated data