10:14am Tuesday 10 December 2019

Encouraging active workplaces focus of UQ study

A $150,000 Heart Foundation Grant will enable researchers from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health at UQ’s School of Human Movement Studies to examine employees’ and employers’ perceptions of physical activity in the workplace, and identify practical solutions to encourage more activity and less sitting during the work day.

Lead researcher Professor Wendy Brown said businesses would need to adopt strategies that prioritise the health of their employees, and get employees moving.

“Adults who sit too much throughout the work day are at higher risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some cancers,” Professor Brown said.

“If workplaces encourage more physical activity and discourage long periods of uninterrupted sitting at work, the risk of employees developing such health problems is significantly reduced.”

The project is amongst the first to examine individual, social, cultural and policy factors, in addition to the physical environmental factors associated with activity-promoting workplaces.

“This is important as there is, to date, little evidence that changing the physical environment alone will result in behaviour change in employees,” Professor Brown said.

The project is a collaboration between leading public health researchers from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health and The Prevention Research Collaboration within the Charles Perkins Centre at Sydney University.

Findings will support the Heart Foundation’s work in advocating active living, inform future intervention research, and provide practical guidance for creating activity-promoting workplaces.   

Professor Brown said the first stage of the project would involve focus group discussions with employees to explore their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of sitting and moving at work, and their ideas for improving workplace activity patterns.

“We will be targeting people working in the transport, mining and manufacturing industries, as well as call centres and private sector office workers,” Professor Brown said.    

“We will also interview managers in the same companies, to explore their perceptions of activity-promoting workplaces, any policy initiatives that have been introduced, and the feasibility of introducing strategies to encourage less sitting and more activity.”

In stage two, researchers will use the data from stage one to develop and implement a survey of 450 workplaces to identify key factors which influence general managers’, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) managers’ and union representatives’ perceptions and practices in relation to activity-promoting workplaces.

Researcher Dr Nicholas Gilson, from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health said OHS managers and union perspectives were important, because they are often the gatekeepers who mediate between employees and employers in change management situations.

“We are particularly interested to see whether managers are being good role models and champions in terms of meeting current physical activity guidelines and promoting a culture where sitting less and moving more is an acceptable part of workplace practice and culture,” Dr Gilson said.

Results will be used to compile a two-part report which highlights strategies that support and influence the creation of activity-promoting workplaces, barriers to making positive changes, and practical resources with ‘best practice’ case studies.

The project is scheduled for completion in June 2016. 

Media: Professor Wendy Brown, 07 3365 6446; or UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au or 07 3365 1130

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