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Workplace physical activity promotion: why so many failures and few successes? The need for new thinking
  1. Andreas Holtermann1,2,
  2. Leon Straker3,4,
  3. I-Min Lee5,
  4. Emmanuel Stamatakis6,
  5. Allard J van der Beek7
  1. 1National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Kobenhavn, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  3. 3Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  5. 5Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Charles Perkins Centre, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  7. 7Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam UMC – VUMC Campus, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Professor Andreas Holtermann, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Kobenhavn, Denmark; aho{at}nfa.dk

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Work has been a major determinant of adult physical activity throughout most of history. Yet public health initiatives and guidelines have traditionally focused on promoting physical activity during leisure time; the workplace has received limited attention.1

In this editorial, we: (1) argue why the workplace offers a great potential for promoting physical activity in working populations, (2) discuss reasons for the many failures, (3) share success stories and (4) suggest a new approach to unleash the great potential of workplace physical activity initiatives.

Why is the workplace suited to promote physical activity?

  • Work commonly occupies almost half of the waking hours of working-age adults; it provides a large ‘time-bank’.

  • The workplace can offer the structure, environment and social setting needed to sustainably improve physical activity.

  • Physical activity promotion at work can profit employers as it can improve productivity, reduce sickness absence and lower work disability-related costs.2

Why do so many workplace physical activity initiatives fail?

  • Even though workplace physical activity initiatives often use a participatory approach, such …

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @profHoltermann, @Leon_Straker, @M_Stamatakis

  • Contributors AH wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the content of the manuscript and accepted the submitted version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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