Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Using Environmental Stimuli in Physical Activity Intervention for School Teachers: A Pilot Study

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Using Environmental Stimuli in Physical Activity Intervention for School Teachers: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to examine the effectiveness of a six-week intervention that aimed to promote teachers' physical activity level during working hours. Thirty-eight teachers from three intervention schools (schools randomly assigned as intervention group) received intervention prompts: SMS messages, leaflets and posters promoting walking, and a pedometer. Fourteen teachers were from a control school (school randomly assigned as control group). All participants reported pedometer readings and rated their Stage of Change scores before and after intervention. Differences in step counts per minute between groups were examined using ANCOVA adjusted by time duration for step counts. The intervention group had a higher increase in steps-at-work (t=3.61, P<0.001) than the control group and type of commuter affected the increase in steps-at-work for the intervention group ([F.sub.2,34]=4.95, P<0.01, [[eta].sup.2.sub.p] =.23). The study concluded that an intervention utilizing environmental stimuli as the strategy can be successfully applied in the school setting for the promotion of school teachers' physical activity.

Key words: Physical activity, Worksite Intervention, Pedometer, School Teachers

Introduction

Surveys indicate that the majority of adults in developed countries fail to meet the recommended physical activity (PA) levels for health benefits and highlight the need to promote PA. (1,2) The statistics are similar in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Behavioral Risk Factor Survey revealed that over half (56.5%) of the adults in Hong Kong aged 18 to 64 failed to complete at least 10 minutes of moderate PA during the day. (3) Although the benefits of regular PA have been well-documented, (4,5) most adults in Hong Kong still adopt a sedentary life style.

Intervention programs with different approaches have been implemented in various studies for promoting PA. Dishman and Buckworth (6) stressed that the efficacy of an intervention program design depended on the support from a theoretical basis and the strategy applied. The Transtheoretical model (TTM) is one of the widely applied theories to guide the promotion of individual's exercise behavior and its effectiveness has been reported in previous research. (7,8) The model suggests that individuals adopting a new behavior progress through five stages (i.e., precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance). (9) The "processes of change" (e.g., consciousness raising, dramatic relief, stimulus control) are activities suggested to assist progress through the stages of the TTM and provide important guides for intervention program design.

Apart from a theoretical basis, appropriate and practical strategies applied on the intervention are essential for implementation and success. Different strategies have been implemented in worksite intervention studies for promoting PA. These have included posters in prominent positions to encourage the use of stairs and increase PA, (10) as well as the use of web-based material, email and fliers. (11) Marshall (12) reviewed the worksite intervention studies conducted since 1997 and reported that less 'organized' programs would tend to be more effective for influencing the overall workforce. For example, simple strategies of promoting incidental activity (e.g., stair use) could impact on a greater number of inactive employees as these individuals would not typically join an 'organized' exercise program. Environmental cues or prompts, that minimally interrupt the normal setting, have been found to facilitate adoption and maintenance of PA. (13) Lombard, Lombard, and Winett (14) designed a phone call based intervention for university staff. Staff who received frequent calls recorded more walking activity than those who received infrequent calls.

Long working hours, in sedentary jobs, possibly impacts upon the amount of PA. (15) Teachers in Hong Kong have long working hours with heavy teaching and administrative workloads. …

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