This report was originally published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Physical inactivity is a major public health threat: inactive adults are at an elevated risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and depression.1 Despite these dire consequences, fewer than half of American adults meet the recommended guidelines for daily physical activity.1,2 Sedentary jobs contribute to this problem, but the workplace also presents an opportunity for intervention.3,4 Simple, workplace-friendly activities such as brisk walking have been shown to improve employees’ physical and mental health, contribute to lower health care spending, and increase worker engagement and productivity.4?10 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to prevent chronic diseases.11 Further, because of their relatively low cost, high impact, wide reach, and easy implementation, walking programs are attractive to employers who wish to help their employees reap the many health benefits of engaging in regular physical activity.6
Simple, workplace-friendly activities such as brisk walking have been shown to improve employees’ physical and mental health.
This paper describes an initiative spearheaded by the Bipartisan Policy Center, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and the BPC’s Chief Executive Officer Council on Health and Innovation (CEO Council) to engage business leaders in promoting physical activity in the workplace through the “Building Better Health: Physical Activity Challenge” (Challenge). Members of the CEO Council launched the Challenge with the intention of sharing best practices with other employers interested in improving physical activity among workers and ultimately achieving sustainable behavior change.12 The goals of the Challenge were to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity, improve the health and well-being of employees, and identify strategies that support successful program implementation by other businesses.12
A more modest aim of the Challenge was to pilot test the feasibility of a multi-employer initiative aimed at improving the health and well-being of workers, with an initial emphasis placed on promoting physical activity. The initiative was designed as a “call to action” by CEOs of large companies and structured flexibly to encourage broad engagement of companies’ health promotion staffs, all of whom were already managing their unique programs.