The Effectiveness of Worksite Physical Activity Programs on Physical Activity, Physical Fitness, and Health

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Abstract

Objective

To critically review the literature with respect to the effectiveness of worksite physical activity programs on physical activity, physical fitness, and health.

Data Sources

A search for relevant English-written papers published between 1980 and 2000 was conducted using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Sportdiscus, CINAHL, and Psychlit. The key words used involved a combination of concepts regarding type of study, study population, intervention, and outcome measure. In addition, a search was performed in our personal databases, as well as a reference search of the studies retrieved.

Study Selection

The following criteria for inclusion were used: 1) randomized, controlled trial or nonrandomized, controlled trial; 2) working population; 3) worksite intervention program to promote employees' physical activity or physical fitness; and 4) physical activity, physical fitness, or health-related outcomes.

Data Extraction

Two reviewers independently evaluated the quality of relevant studies using a predefined set of nine methodological criteria. Conclusions regarding the effectiveness of a worksite physical activity programs were based on a rating system consisting of five levels of evidence.

Data Synthesis

Fifteen randomized, controlled trials and 11 nonrandomized, controlled trials met the criteria for inclusion and were reviewed. Six randomized, controlled trials and none of the nonrandomized, controlled trials were of high methodological quality. Strong evidence was found for a positive effect of a worksite physical activity program on physical activity and musculoskeletal disorders. Limited evidence was found for a positive effect on fatigue. For physical fitness, general health, blood serum lipids, and blood pressure, inconclusive or no evidence was found for a positive effect.

Conclusions

To increase the level of physical activity and to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, we support implementation of worksite physical activity programs. For the other outcome measures, scientific evidence of the effectiveness of such a program is still limited or inconclusive, which is mainly the result of the small number of high-quality trials. Therefore, we recommend performing more randomized, controlled trials of high methodological quality, taking into account criteria such as randomization, blinding, and compliance.

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