Can Building Design Impact Physical Activity? A Natural Experiment

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Workplace design can impact workday physical activity (PA) and sedentary time. The purpose of this study was to evaluate PA behavior among university employees before and after moving into a new building. Methods: A pre–post, experimental versus control group study design was used. PA data were collected using surveys and accelerometers from university faculty and staff. Accelerometry was used to compare those moving into the new building (MOVERS) and those remaining in existing buildings (NONMOVERS) and from a control group (CONTROLS). Results: Survey results showed increased self-reported PA for MOVERS and NONMOVERS. All 3 groups significantly increased in objectively collected daily energy expenditure and steps per day. The greatest steps per day increase was in CONTROLS (29.8%) compared with MOVERS (27.5%) and NONMOVERS (15.9%), but there were no significant differences between groups at pretest or posttest. Conclusions: Self-reported and objectively measured PA increased from pretest to posttest in all groups; thus, the increase cannot be attributed to the new building. Confounding factors may include contamination bias due to proximity of control site to experimental site and introduction of a university PA tracking contest during postdata collection. Methodology and results can inform future studies on best design practices for increasing PA.

Eyler, Valko, Ramadas, and Zwald are with the Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO. Hipp is with the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

Eyler (aeyler@wustl.edu) is corresponding author.
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