Objective To study health benefits of physical activity programs initiated by employer.
Methods A motivational, unsupervised, 8-week physical activity (PA) program was initiated in a road maintenance enterprise autumn 2014 and repeated autumn 2015. The PA program included individual registration of steps (from pedometer) and participation in teams that competed internally. Background data, self-reported levels of PA and objective health measurements were collected at baseline, after the first PA program, and finally after 15 months and the end of the second PA program. 121 (78 men and 43 women), 103 and 97 workers were included at baseline and at the first and second follow-up, respectively. Self-reported physical activity was categorised as 1) physical active ≤1 time per week, 2) 2–3 times per week and 3) ≥4 times a week. Health measurements included blood pressure, resting heart rate and blood samples (glycosylated haemoglobin, lipids, C-reactive protein and seven inflammatory biomarkers). Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) was measured before and after the first PA program.
Results With ≤1 time per week as reference, exercising 2–3 times per week at baseline was associated with higher levels of VO2max. During the first 8-week follow-up, VO2max increased with 2.8 mL ∙ kg-1∙min-1 (95% CI = 1.4, 4.3), while
52% of the participants reported increased daily PA. Likewise, total cholesterol and LDL were reduced by 0.12 mmol/L and 0.13 mmol/L, respectively (95% CI = −022,−0.01 and −0.22,−0.04). In addition, mediators of inflammation, decreased substantially during the 8-week follow-up. Analyses that also include data from the 15-month follow-up will be presented at the conference.
Conclusions Exercise several times a week among workers in road maintenance is associated with increased VO2max, lower blood pressure, a favourable lipid status and lower inflammation compared to lower weekly activity. The study suggests that an employer initiated, motivational, PA program could have health benefits for the participating employees.
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