Moving Ahead: Workplace Interventions to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour

The sedentary lifestyle is still gaining ground even though the human body has a natural need of movement. At work, it’s difficult to be active unless employers give it a boost. The new report prepared by the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care of the Conference Board of Canada and distributed jointly with ParticipACTION, “Moving Ahead: Workplace Interventions to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour” gives precisely the keys for action companies need to help their employees be more active.


Only 15% of Canadians exercise the two and a half hours of activity each week that are advised by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. And during their waking hours, adults remain sedentary for ten hours. Also worrying is the prolonged sitting position which presents a higher risk of heart disease, certain cancers, type B diabetes, excessive weight and even depression. Suffice it to say that taking care of employees becomes a real health challenge for the individual and the company and also for society.

The report therefore invites organizations to develop a well-being and health policy for their employees. There are many benefits – reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and workplace accidents, and increasing productivity and performance as well as creativity. In addition to these measurable benefits, there are other intangibles that can be added such as the improvement in relations between co-workers, employee satisfaction and the company’s image.


Imagining solutions at the company level

With many hours devoted to their work, employees find it difficult to free up time for physical and sports activities. For companies, the challenge doesn’t’ stop at just a question of time. It’s also a question of transforming cultural norms, including the omnipresence of the car and computer screens. To stimulate changes, the report suggests two types of initiatives. The first consists of setting up for all employees campaigns to raise awareness, education programs, and physical activity sessions led by trainers. The second targets the specific needs of people at risk by offering tutoring sessions, advice and sessions of physical activity.

To help organizations, the report proposes topics for reflection, practical initiatives to set up (daily walking program, physical activity rooms available on-site, financial incentives, etc.) as well as examples of companies that have already developed health and well-being programs. To download the free report (in English), visit the Conference Board of Canada‘s e-Library.

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