External, Internal Barriers Hurt On-Site Fitness Results

Although on-site corporate fitness centers are fairly common, utilization rates are low. Four authors of a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, an American Psychological Association journal, wondered what role perceived barriers play in workers' decision to use or not use the centers.

No standardized measures exist to assess these perceived barriers, co-authors Heather M. Schwetschenau, William H. O'Brien, Christopher J.L. Cunningham, and Steve M. Jex wrote in "Barriers to physical activity in an on-site corporate fitness center." They used a survey to question 88 employees of a Midwest corporation about their use of an on-site fitness center. Regression analyses revealed external environmental barriers, such as inadequate exercise facilities, significantly accounted for workers' decision not to join a center and for shorter visits to the facility by members. Internal barriers, such as embarrassment at exercising among co-workers, significantly accounted for the frequency of visits to the fitness center by members.

The authors said they hope their study leads to more effective interventions to increase workers' use of on-site fitness centers.

Another study published in the same issue of the journal, "Work strain, health, and absenteeism: A meta-analysis," casts doubt on the belief that work strain is a significant cause of absenteeism. Authors Wendy Darr and Gary Johns analyzed 153 studies and found positive but small associations between absenteeism and work strain, psychological illness, and physical illness.

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