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Wellness Programs Benefit From Management Support

January 12, 2009
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Related Topics: Future Workplace, Motivating Employees, Health and Wellness, Latest News
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Workplace wellness programs that incorporate goal-setting and receive management support are twice as likely to improve employee activity levels as merely providing information to employees on the health benefits of exercise, a study has found.

The study compared the activity levels of 1,442 Home Depot Inc.’s employees who participated in the retailer’s 12-week “Move to Improve” program with a control group.

The control group took health risk appraisals designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and received monthly newsletters describing the health benefits of physical activity.

The study group was divided into teams and was asked to set both personal and team goals that included weekly increases in the frequency of 10-minute exercise breaks and in the number of pedometer steps. Senior managers endorsed the program and encouraged middle managers to support employee participation, and participants received small incentives for meeting goals. The program also incorporated environmental prompts, such as signs posted in high-traffic areas throughout the work sites that encouraged physical activity.

By the sixth week of the study, 51 percent of the study group participants logged at least five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions or two to three 20-minute vigorous exercise sessions weekly, compared with only 25 percent of the control group. Moreover, study group participants sustained that level of activity through the end of the 12-week study, with few dropouts, according to the study’s lead author, Rod Dishman, a professor of exercise science at the University of Georgia.

“The biggest pleasant surprise was the steady and sustained progress,” he said in a statement.

“Move to Improve: A Randomized Workplace Trial to Increase Physical Activity” will be published in the February 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and is available to subscribers at www.ajpm-online.net.

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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