Promoting Physical Activity at Work

black bike (black_bike.jpg)

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.

Tools for Creating Active Worksites (tools_for_creating_active_worksites.jpg)

Related Topics (related-topics.jpg)

Read the complete list of worksite obesity prevention recommendations.

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 ActivityOpens in New Window: 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. CirculationOpens in New Window. 2009;120:1725–41.

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

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

5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit NationOpens in New Window. 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 AmericaOpens in New Window. Executive Summary and Key Recommendations; 2004.

7. Institute of Medicine. Local government actions to prevent childhood obesityOpens in New Window. 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 AmericaOpens in New Window2008: Trust for America’s Health; 2008.

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

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.