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Exercise amenities at or near work can help boost workers’ physical activity, study shows

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Photo: Halfpoint/iStockphoto

Toronto — Access to fitness-related amenities onsite or near work increases workers’ physical activity levels, according to a recent study from the Institute for Work and Health.

Using data from more than 60,000 adult workers’ responses to the 2007-2008 Canadian Community Health Survey, which they cross-referenced with additional employment information, researchers analyzed respondents’ access to amenities such as walking and biking trails, fitness facilities, open spaces or playing fields, wellness programs, showers and changing rooms, and recreational sports teams.

The researchers examined combinations of activity-related amenities available at or near work and the likelihood of physical activity based on that access. They found that workers who had a moderate to high probability of access to at least one workplace facility or program were more active than those who didn’t have access.

Two combinations of amenities showed the strongest connection with increased activity: access to all amenities at or near work; and access to a pleasant place to walk, showers and changing rooms, and wellness programs.

A quarter of respondents had access to all amenities possible, while another quarter had little or no access to any.

More than half of adults get less than the 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization, which can lead to shorter life span, chronic diseases and mental health issues such as depression, the researchers said.

“Access to supportive workplace environments can help workers be physically active,” the study states. “Future research should assess a range of personal, social and environmental factors that may be driving this relationship.”

The study was published online April 3 in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports.

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