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Workplace Walking Group - Worth the Effort?? Jul 13th, 2014
The combination of stress alongside sedentary behaviour is widespread in many workplaces. Therefore, workplace interventions specifically targeting sedentary behaviour and stress may help alleviate some of the risks for heart disease. Individuals who do not engage in regular physical activity (PA) have a 20–30% greater risk for heart disease, thus sedentary behaviour has been identified as a key health issue.

The workplace is a suitable location for incorporating PA, such as walking, at a community level. Increasing activity during suitable periods of the day, such as lunchtime, provide opportunities for performing moderate activity and may, thus, break up long periods of sedentary time.

Current guidelines suggest that employers should encourage more active transport to and from work, more moving within the working day and promote walking during work breaks. Walking is eminently suited to population exercise prescription as it is easy to do, requires no special skills or facilities, and is achievable by virtually all age groups with little risk of injury.

The lunch break is often a time when employees continue to remain at their workstations due to work demands or peer-pressure from colleagues. Thus a detrimental cycle of increased stress and sedentary behaviour can prevail. The lunch period offers an opportunity to engage in moderate PA, interrupting long periods of sedentary time (i.e. prolonged sitting) and providing an opportunity to decrease stress levels and restore physical and mental fatigue.

The American College of Sports Medicine has adopted the recommendation that "every adult should accumulate 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week". However, compliance with these guidelines requires considerable commitment in terms of time spent exercising per week (≥ 150 minutes) and this may deter individuals from starting an exercise programme. There is some evidence that a training frequency of as low as two days per week may elicit improvements in cardio respiratory fitness in the lower fitness categories.

Murphy et al, 2006 evaluated the benefit of a progressive eight week workplace walking program. Participants walked twice per week for 45 minutes at a speed of their own choosing.

The results suggested self-paced walking 45 min, 2 days per week for eight weeks, reduces systolic BP and prevented an increase in body fat, in previously sedentary employees, and was associated with high adherence.

As there was little evidence this exercise intervention improved other markers of heart disease (Aerobic fitness, diastolic BP, body mass, cholesterol and other cardiac enzymes). This walking prescription may be useful as a stepping-stone to further increase levels of exercise in a previously sedentary workforce.


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