Goal-Setting Drills Make for More Active Coworkers

According to a new study that appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, workplace programs that encourage employees to set exercise goals promote increased participation and steady, sustained progress.

The study focused on physical activity levels of Home Depot employees who participated in the “Move to Improve” program. Workers set personal and team physical activity goals weekly for 3 months, receiving incentives for achievement.

Results show the program increased the proportion of employees who regularly participated in either moderate or vigorous physical activity from about 30 percent at the start of the study to about 50 percent during the last 6 weeks, said lead author Rod Dishman, Ph.D.

Researchers tracked changes in the 1,442 participants’ physical activity levels with pedometers throughout the intervention. By the sixth week of the study, 51 percent of program participants logged at least five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions or two to three 20-minute vigorous exercise sessions weekly, compared with only 25 percent of the control group.

In addition, Move to Improve participants sustained that level of activity through the end of the 12-week study, with few dropouts, said Dishman, a professor of exercise science at the University of Georgia.

“The biggest pleasant surprise was the steady and sustained progress. That can probably be explained by the social incentives and support from personal goals and achievements that had direct impact on team success,” Dishman explained

Self-Set Goals

Katherine Alaimo, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Michigan State University, said this particular program’s success could be attributed in part to investigators including a combination of things not usually in workplace wellness programs.

“They had individual goal setting – a common technique – but they also had group and organizational goal setting, which provided the peer encouragement that is necessary and important,” Alaimo said.

She also added that since workplaces have a captive audience – employees – they offer excellent opportunities for physical activity ad wellness programs. Of course, employees must be willing to set their own goals.

“Personal and team goals work best when they are self-set, specific about how much activity and when, realistic but attainable and easily assessed, such as by weekly logs or pedometer steps,” said Dishman.

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