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Study by NOSM Faculty Member Emphasizes the Need for Creative Promotion of Physical Activity in Sudbury-Area Call Centres

Posted on August 29, 2011

Promoting a physically active lifestyle in a fast-paced work environment, such as a call centre, requires creativity and a team effort, according to Sheila Renton, an occupational therapist and faculty member in NOSM’s Division of Clinical Sciences.

According to a recent study conducted by Renton, physical activity promotion in call centre workplaces may be particularly important.  Emerging evidence from other research has shown that prolonged and uninterrupted sitting may have negative effects on health even if counteracted by moderate-intensity physical activity at other times of the day.  The nature of work in call centres, however, poses some challenges due to scheduling and a fast pace.

Managers in ten of the twelve call centres operating in Sudbury at the time of the study participated in in-depth interviews designed to explore employers’ motivation to engage in physical activity promotion in the workplace.  Study participants were asked to describe what barriers exist for the promotion of physical activity in call centres and what help they need for the implementation of initiatives in their workplaces.

“I was pleased to learn that several local call centres currently have some practices in place designed to promote physical activity amongst their employees, such as posting information about the importance of exercise and negotiating corporate discounts at fitness facilities.  Some of the smaller call centres may need more assistance. The Sudbury Contact Centre Network could be a big help for sharing information and resources,” said Renton.

Managers involved in this study had generally positive responses to the Ontario government’s recommendations for physical activity promotion in the workplace as outlined in the 2004 Chief Medical Officer of Health Report: Healthy weights, Healthy lives.  Some of the participants felt they needed fresh ideas and guidance and some knew about the workplace wellness information available through the Sudbury & District Health Unit.  “There are many resources available to help workplaces promote physical activity.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of increasing awareness,” said Renton.

Although this study focused solely on the perspectives of managers, it will be important to include call centre workers in future research and in workplace wellness committees where employees engage in participatory planning alongside senior leaders. The findings were recently published in an international journal, Health Education Research.

Some studies suggest that people who work in primarily sedentary occupations are also more sedentary in their leisure activities than are employees who do more physically demanding jobs.

Undertaken by Renton as part of her Master of Public Health degree from Lakehead University, the study was completed under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Lightfoot with Dr. Marion Maar as committee member, both faculty members in NOSM’s Division of Human Sciences.