Effectiveness of the FLOW Program Among Heavy Computer-Using Employees
A Pilot Study by Renee Nasajon, PsyD, Jonathan N. Tobin, PhD, and Cory Mitchell, BS
Introduction: For more than a decade, research studies have consistently reported an alarming increase in the incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases among working Americans. This trend has been accompanied simultaneously by a growing tendency towards a sedentary lifestyle. Further studies identified a significant positive correlation between lack of physical activity and the development of chronic conditions, including cardiac diseases, stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis, among others. Furthermore, regular moderate levels of exercise can improve cognitive performance, and prevent or alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress, and some infectious diseases.
Methods: Twenty five adult healthcare workers whose tasks consist primarily of deskbound activities were drawn from two Health Community Centers (CHCs) in Peekskill and Walden, NY – CHCs that are members of Clinical Directors Network (CDN), a NYC-based Practice Based Research Network (PBRN) that works with health care organizations serving low income and minority populations. The intervention group received the FLOW program while the control group received assessments only.
FLOW is an innovative technology-based initiative designed to increase workplace physical activity. FLOW was built with the goal of promoting and facilitating physical activity among desk-bound employees during working hours, and consists of: 1) a software program providing 5-minute long videos of a trainer modeling exercises to be performed while sitting at a desk, and 2) regular emails that encourage users to use the program and provide health information. Both groups were assessed pre- and post-intervention, separated by 5 months. In order to provide equal health-promoting opportunity to both groups, the control group also received a copy of the FLOW program after the study concluded. Participants were randomized (by flip of a coin) based on workplace. A 1-hour long informational seminar, arranged in collaboration with management, was conducted to recruit participants. A self-administered screening questionnaire was used to determine eligible individuals. Outcome measures included weight, BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as measures of self-reported physical activity.
Results: Participants did not experience significant amounts of weight loss during the relatively short duration. Participants experienced significant decreases in systolic blood pressure (SBP; p < 0.05), while declines in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) approached significance (p = 0.053). There was a mean drop of 16 points in SBP and a mean drop of approximately 7 points in DBP. There were also significant improvements in self-reported physical activity (p < 0.05) and relaxation (p < 0.05), especially when the participants used hand-held weights or heavy objects and stretching in their exercise routines (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: This pilot study tested the efficacy of the FLOW Program, an innovative technology-based initiative designed to increase workplace physical activity, and significant improvements were observed in blood pressure and self-reported physical activity in a work site setting. FLOW was built with the goal of promoting and facilitating physical activity among desk-bound employees during working hours, and it consists of a 1) a software program providing 5-minute long videos of a trainer modeling exercises to be performed while sitting at a desk, and 2) regular emails that encourage users to use the program and provide health information. Given the epidemic of physical inactivity, obesity, and stress-related morbidity and mortality, in combination with environmental restrictions and the most commonly reported obstacles to exercise, the most efficacious interventions will need to provide 1) a sense of control, 2) time/place flexibility, 3) cost effectiveness, 4) portability, 5) weather/gear independence, 6) adaptability to all levels of exercise experience (from beginners to advanced), and 7) adaptability to the particular characteristics of the working environment.
Effectiveness of the FLOW Program Among Heavy Computer-Using Employees:
A Pilot Study