Psychologist toolkit to drive fitness study

Psychologists from Leeds University are helping motivate more than 1,000 workers to get fit in a work-based study into physical activity and health, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Bus drivers, office staff and managers from three major employers have signed up to the trial run by a team from the university’s Institute of Psychological Sciences in partnership with the Health and Safety Laboratory, funded by a £300,000 grant from the Bupa Foundation.

The team recruited employees in sedentary jobs at Wrexham Council, a leading Yorkshire teaching hospital and the Leeds and York depots of transport business FirstGroup, where the trial is also being supported by trade union Unite.

Psychologist Dr Rebecca Lawton and her team found people’s number one obstacle to being active was time. The team has now developed a toolkit of materials to help people overcome barriers and encourage a change in attitude towards getting fit.

The toolkit includes a fridge magnet to help participants monitor their exercise as well as tips and hints to getting fit, such as challenging teams of employees to scale a virtual mountain by climbing stairs.

“We hope that the trial will help change the way people think about physical activity and that by working in groups with peer group support our participants and their employers will see real changes,” said Lawton.

As part of the research, the Health and Safety Laboratory is carrying out health checks on all participants in the trial. In each workplace a number of employees are trained to support and encourage their colleagues using the specially designed toolkit.

It will compare changes in behaviour, health and work for employees using the toolkit with a comparable group of employees who are not receiving the same motivational methods.

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