Habitual behaviours are learned responses that are triggered automatically by associated environmental cues. The unvarying nature of most workplace settings makes workplace physical activity a prime candidate for a habitual behaviour, yet the role of habit strength in occupational physical activity has not been investigated. Aims of the present study were to: (i) document occupational physical activity habit strength; and (ii) investigate associations between occupational activity habit strength and occupational physical activity levels. A sample of UK office-based workers (n
= 116; 53% female, median age 40 years, SD 10.52) was fitted with activPAL accelerometers worn for 24 h on five consecutive days, providing an objective measure of occupational step counts, stepping time, sitting time, standing time and sit-to-stand transitions. A self-report index measured the automaticity of two occupational physical activities (“being active” (e.g., walking to printers and coffee machines) and “stair climbing”). Adjusted linear regression models investigated the association between occupational activity habit strength and objectively-measured occupational step counts, stepping time, sitting time, standing time and sit-to-stand transitions. Eighty-one per cent of the sample reported habits for “being active”, and 62% reported habits for “stair climbing”. In adjusted models, reported habit strength for “being active” were positively associated with average occupational sit-to-stand transitions per hour (B = 0.340, 95% CI: 0.053 to 0.627, p
= 0.021). “Stair climbing” habit strength was unexpectedly negatively associated with average hourly stepping time (B = −0.01, 95% CI: −0.01 to −0.00, p
= 0.006) and average hourly occupational step count (B = −38.34, 95% CI: −72.81 to −3.88, p
= 0.030), which may reflect that people with stronger stair-climbing habits compensate by walking fewer steps overall. Results suggest that stair-climbing and office-based occupational activity can be habitual. Interventions might fruitfully promote habitual workplace activity, although, in light of potential compensation effects, such interventions should perhaps focus on promoting moderate-intensity activity.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited