BACKGROUND: Increased physical activity levels benefit both an individuals' health and productivity at work. The purpose of the current study was to explore the impact and cost-effectiveness of a workplace physical activity intervention designed to increase physical activity levels. METHODS: A total of 1260 participants from 44 UK worksites (based within 5 organizations) were recruited to a cluster randomized controlled trial with worksites randomly allocated to an intervention or control condition. Measurement of physical activity and other variables occurred at baseline, and at 0 months, 3 months and 9 months post-intervention. Health outcomes were measured during a 30 minute health check conducted in worksites at baseline and 9 months post intervention. The intervention consisted of a 3 month tool-kit of activities targeting components of the Theory of Planned Behavior, delivered in-house by nominated facilitators. Self-reported physical activity (measured using the IPAQ short-form) and health outcomes were assessed. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Multilevel modelling found no significant effect of the intervention on MET minutes of activity (from the IPAQ) at any of the follow-up time points controlling for baseline activity. However, the intervention did significantly reduce systolic blood pressure (B=-1.79 mm/Hg) and resting heart rate (B=-2.08 beats) and significantly increased body mass index (B=.18 units) compared to control. The intervention was found not to be cost-effective, however the substantial variability round this estimate suggested that further research is warranted. CONCLUSIONS: The current study found mixed support for this worksite physical activity intervention. The paper discusses some of the tensions involved in conducting rigorous evaluations of large-scale randomized controlled trials in real-world settings.
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