In the UK it is recommended that adults should aim to undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) throughout the week. Increasing physical activity levels, especially for people who are the least active, is an important aim of current public health policy to help prevent chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Even walking at a moderate pace (5km/hour or 3mph) uses enough energy to meet the definition of MVPA. The aim of this study is to examine whether it is possible to increase the amount of walking that people do during their journeys to and from work.
Cluster randomised controlled trial.
Workplaces in Bath, South Gloucestershire and Swansea will be recruited through the Chambers of Commerce. Employees who do not always walk or cycle to work already will be invited to take part in the study. In half of the workplaces, volunteers (Walk to Work promoters) will be recruited and trained to encourage other employees to walk during the journey to and from work.
People who take part will be given Walk to Work booklets and pedometers. They will be helped to work out safe walking routes and encouraged to set goals for walking to work. Extra encouragement will be provided through four contacts from the Walk to Work promoter over the following 10 weeks. This will be in person, by email or by telephone, whichever is better for the workplaces and the employees.
The other workplaces will carry on as usual so that physical activity and travel mode can be compared between those people in workplaces that received the intervention and those who did not.
The study will take place in a range of small (up to 50 employees), medium-sized (51-250 employees) and large (250+ employees) workplaces. 678 people will be recruited to take part in the study.
Everyone taking part in the study will be asked to wear accelerometers (a small monitor, worn on a belt around the waist, to measure levels of physical activity) for seven days at the beginning of the study and again a year later. They will also be asked to wear GPS monitors to check how much of their activity takes place on the journey to and from work; and to complete travel diaries and questionnaires about their journeys to work.
Some of the employees, employers and Walk to Work promoters will be interviewed about their views and experiences of the study and the factors which make it possible for some people to walk to work while others do not. To find out if it is a good use of money to try to increase walking in this way, the time spent training the Walk to Work promoters and encouraging people to walk to work will be recorded, as well as the costs of the booklets and other resources such as pedometers. Absentee rates will be collected from employers; and participants’ journey time, travel costs of getting to and from work, and health service use will be recorded using travel diaries and questionnaires.