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“In Initiative Overload”: Australian Perspectives on Promoting Physical Activity in the Workplace from Diverse Industries

Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health and Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney 2006, Australia
Department of Health Systems and Populations, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109, Australia
School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia
School of Health and Wellbeing, University of Southern Queensland, Ipswich 4305, Australia
School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Queensland 4122, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(3), 516;
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 5 February 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Occupational Sedentary Behaviour)
PDF [302 KB, uploaded 12 February 2019]


Introduction: With two thirds of adults in paid employment and one third physically inactive, workplaces are an important setting for promoting more physical activity. We explored the attitudes and practices of employees and managers from different industries towards sitting and moving at work, to inform the development of acceptable solutions for encouraging businesses to adopt activity-promoting workplaces. Method: We conducted focus groups with employees and structured interviews with upper/middle managers from 12 organisations in a range of industries (e.g., education, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, insurance, mining). Topics focused on past and current workplace health and wellness initiatives, workplace culture and environment related to physical activity, responsibility for employee physical activity patterns at work, and enablers of/barriers to activity promoting workplaces. Results: Physical activity was not an explicit priority in existing occupational health and wellness initiatives. Instead, there was a strong focus on education about preventing and managing injuries, such as manual handling among non-office workers and desk-based ergonomics for office workers. Physical activity was viewed as a strategy for maintaining work ability and preventing injury, particularly in blue-collar staff, rather than for chronic disease prevention. Managers noted structural/organisational barriers/enablers to promoting physical activity at work (e.g., regulations, costs, competing concerns), while employees tended to focus on individual constraints such as time and geographic location. The issues of "initiative overload" and making physical activity a part of “business as usual” emerged as strong themes from employees and managers. Conclusions: While there is stakeholder enthusiasm for creating activity-promoting workplaces, multi-level support is needed to make physical activity an integral part of day-to-day business. The synergism between occupational health and safety priorities could be leveraged to facilitate the creation of activity-promoting workplaces. View Full-Text
Keywords: physical activity; workplace; health promotion; qualitative physical activity; workplace; health promotion; qualitative
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 (CC BY 4.0).

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Chau, J.Y.; Engelen, L.; Kolbe-Alexander, T.; Young, S.; Olsen, H.; Gilson, N.; Burton, N.W.; Bauman, A.E.; Brown, W.J. “In Initiative Overload”: Australian Perspectives on Promoting Physical Activity in the Workplace from Diverse Industries. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 516.

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