A Workplace Initiative to Promote Physical Activity
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
Advances in workplace based physical activity programmes have been observed worldwide, however, minimal research has been carried out on workplace based programmes in New Zealand. Physical activity is an important modifiable risk factor for conditions such as CVD, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor, approximately half of New Zealand adults are recorded as physically inactive. Promoting health in the workplace increases the chances of health and well-being. Studies on workplaces that incorporate health and wellness initiatives including physical activity programmes, demonstrate lower health care costs and absenteeism and an overall improvement in physical and mental health, job performance, motivation and productivity. This study examined the self-reported physical activity outcomes obtained by a sub group of individuals who participated in the 2007 Sea 2 Sea Challenge, and the extent of support provided by their workplace. The Sea 2 Sea Challenge is a six-week workplace physical activity initiative run annually in Christchurch, by Sport Canterbury, which is now in its seventh year. This study is based on data gathered during and after the Sea 2 Sea Challenge. Both individual and workplace data were obtained on participation in, and impact of, the programme. A self-report physical activity chart was filled out by individual participants in the programme. Online and paper questionnaires were also sent to each workplace and filled out by the workplace coordinator, including information on workplace support. Over the study period 3,732 individuals from 114 workplaces participated in the Sea 2 Sea Challenge. Of the 3,732 total participants, 688 (18.4%) participants filled out and returned the self-report physical activity cards and 54 out of 114 (47.4%) workplace coordinators completed the online/paper questionnaire. These data were subsequently analysed using SPSS software and issues examined include factors associated with levels of individual and workplace participation and the extent to which workplaces supported the Sea 2 Sea programme. Some key findings include: The Sea 2 Sea Challenge has maintained a steady increase in the number of workplaces taking part each year since 2004. From 2005 to 2007, there was approximately a 30% increase in workplaces participating each year. Of the participants who completed the physical activity self-report chart, 70% met the recommended level of activity of 30 minutes each day over six weeks, despite the often low levels of support provided by the workplace and/or workplace coordinator. Although the programme is only short term, the Sea 2 Sea Challenge demonstrates the potential of the programme as a successful workplace intervention in the Canterbury region, particularly for a sub-group of people that reported high levels of physical activity. From the perspective of health promotion targeted to the working population this is a significant and low cost short term outcome for a substantial group. However, the long-term effects of the intervention are not known. The study affirms the potential value of the workplace as a useful setting for health promotion and has also indicated the need for a more extensive evaluation of the effectiveness of such a workplace based health promotion programme. The strengths and the limitations of this study are discussed along with implications for successful implementation of workplace based physical activity programmes in general.