Employers¿ views of promoting walking to work: a qualitative study

Background:
Physical inactivity increases the risk of many chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. It is currently recommended that adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more throughout the week. One way for adults in employment to incorporate exercise into their daily routine is to walk during the commute to and from work. Schemes to promote active travel require the support of employers and managers but there is a lack of research focusing on their views and experiences of promoting walk to work schemes.
Methods:
This study presents the findings from in-depth, digitally recorded interviews with 29 employers from a range of small, medium and large workplaces who participated in a feasibility study to develop and test an employer-led scheme to promote walking to work. All recordings were fully transcribed. The Framework approach for data management was used to aid qualitative analysis. Interview transcripts were read and reread, and textual data were placed in charts focusing on facilitators, barriers, and possibilities for employers to promote walking to work.
Results:
A range of perspectives were identified, from active support through uncertainty and cynicism to resistance. The majority of employers who took part in the study were unclear about how to give practical support for employees who walk to work, but appeared more confident about ideas to promote cycling. Some employers were concerned about how their attempts to promote walking might be perceived by employees. Furthermore, the main business of their organisation took priority over other activities.
Conclusions:
It is clear that employers need more evidence of the effectiveness of walk to work schemes, and the benefits to employers of committing resources to them. Furthermore, employers need support in creating an authentic, health promoting ethos within the workplace to enhance positive relationships and reduce tensions that may arise when promoting active travel initiatives.

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