Recommended daily physical activity accumulated in short intervals (e.g., <10 minutes) may be more feasible and appealing to the relatively sedentary populace than longer bouts. The purpose of this paper is to present a systematic review of the evidence for the effectiveness of short activity bouts incorporated into organizational routine as part of the regular “conduct of business.”
PubMed, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar databases were searched in August 2009 (updated search in February and July 2010) to identify relevant, peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts on school-, worksite-, and faith-based interventions of short, structurally integrated physical activity breaks.
The majority of interventions implemented daily physical activity bouts of 10–15 minutes in length. Schools were the most common settings among the 40 published articles included in this review. The rigor of the studies varied by setting, with more than 75% of worksite versus 25% of school studies utilizing RCT designs. Studies focused on a broad range of outcomes, including academic/work performance indicators, mental health outcomes, and clinical disease risk indicators, in addition to physical activity level. Physical activity was the most commonly assessed outcome in school-based studies, with more than half of studies assessing and observing improvements in physical activity outcomes following the intervention. About a quarter of worksite-based studies assessed physical activity, and the majority found a positive effect of the intervention on physical activity levels. About half of studies also observed improvements in other relevant outcomes such as academic and work performance indicators (e.g., academic achievement, cognitive performance, work productivity); psychosocial factors (e.g., stress, mood); and clinical disease risk indicators (e.g., blood pressure, BMI). The average study duration was more than 1 year, and several reported outcomes at 3–6 years.
Interventions integrating physical activity into organizational routine during everyday life have demonstrated modest but consistent benefits, particularly for physical activity, and these are promising avenues of investigation. The proportionately longer-term outcomes available in these studies compared with individual-level studies suggest that physical activity promotion strategies at the organizational level may be more sustainable