Promoting Physical Activity at Work

black bike

Adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week for good health, and may need an hour a day or more to control weight. Worksites can help employees meet those goals by creating an environment that weaves activity into the workday-and into the daily commute.

Here is a summary of recommendations for increasing physical activity at worksites, based on a review of expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, the National Governors’ Association, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.

Create a worksite environment that promotes physical activity (1,2,3,4)

  • Provide on-site gyms or other physical activity facilities, such as walking paths (1,2,3,4,5)
  • Allow flexible work time or breaks for participation in physical activity (3,4,6,7,8,9)
  • Promote the use of stairs, such as by using signs or by making stairwells safe and attractive (1,2,5,8)
  • Promote “active transport” (bicycling or walking to work), such as by offering bicycle storage (3,9)
  • Provide showers and/or changing facilities (1,3,4)

Implement formal policies that promote physical activity in the workplace, such as policies for exercise breaks or bicycle parking (7,9)

Promoting Physical Activity at Work-Source List

1. World Health Organization WEF. Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases in the Workplace through Diet and Physical Activity: WHO/World Economic Forum Report of a Joint Event; 2008.

2. Carnethon M, Whitsel LP, Franklin BA, et al. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1725-41.

3. Lee V, Mikkelsen, L, Srikantharajah, J, Cohen, L. Promising Strategies for Creating Healthy Eating and Active Living Environments. Oakland: Prevention Institute; 2008.

4. National Governors Association. Creating Healthy States: Actions for Governors. 2005. Accessed February 2, 2012.

5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.

6. American Medical Association. National Summit on Obesity: Building a Plan to Reduce Obesity in America. Executive Summary and Key Recommendations; 2004.

7. Institute of Medicine. Local government actions to prevent childhood obesity. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences Press; 2009.

8. Levi J, Vinter S, St. Laurent R, Segal LM. F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America2008: Trust for America’s Health; 2008.

9. World Health Organization. The Challenge of Obesity in the WHO European Region and the Strategies for Response: World Health Organization; 2007.