Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Substantial health benefits can be achieved from 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per day but most adults in the UK do not achieve this. Walking is a familiar, convenient, and free form of exercise that can be incorporated into everyday life. This study will test a workplace-based intervention to encourage walking to work, test methods of measuring changes in the number of employees who walk to work, and examine the costs and benefits to employees and employers.
Who can participate?
Healthy volunteers who are employees of 12 workplaces in Bristol and live within two miles of the workplace but do not currently walk or cycle.
What does the study involve?
At the start of the study, eligible employees will be asked to complete questionnaires and wear accelerometers (small monitors worn on a belt around the waist) for 7 working days to measure their physical activity. They will also be asked to wear GPS receivers for the journey to and from work to confirm the journey and its contribution to overall physical activity. Gift vouchers will be given to those who provide accelerometer and GPS data for at least 3 working days. Six workplaces will be randomly allocated to receive the intervention and the other six workplaces will constitute the comparison group. In workplaces that receive the intervention, employers will be asked to nominate a suitable Walk to Work promoter who will be trained by experts in the research team about the benefits of walking to work and how to identify and promote safe walking routes. Walk to Work promoters will invite eligible employees to a workplace group session where the benefits of walking to work will be discussed. Employees interested in walking to work will sign up at this stage. Safe, feasible walking routes will be identified and goals for walking to work will be set. Encouragement will be provided through four contacts from the Walk to Work promoter over the following 10 weeks. Time spent and resources used for the intervention will be recorded. Following the intervention, questionnaires will be completed and interviews will be conducted with a random sample of employees who have increased walking to work and those who have not, and with managers and Walk to Work promoters. A year later questionnaires, accelerometers and GPS receivers will be administered in all 12 workplaces.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Physical activity is an important element of a healthy lifestyle. There are also potential benefits to walkers from reduced commuting costs and greater certainty about the timing of the journey to work. There are a number of potential benefits to employers who promote Walk to Work schemes including: a reduction in absenteeism; employees’ increased concentration and mental alertness, and better rapport with colleagues; a reduction in people being late because of greater certainty over the timing of the journey; improved public image as a result of lowering the workplace’s carbon footprint; and savings in parking costs. There is potential for harm in relation to: road safety; personal safety of walkers where lighting is poor or there is potential for street crime; difficulties experienced by Walk to Work promoters, including disrupting usual working relationships and employers’ attitudes towards time taken out of usual work activities; and costs to employers, including disruption to work routines of permitting the intervention during working hours. To address these issues the Walk to Work promoters’ training will include how to give advice about identifying safe walking routes, road safety, personal safety, and time management in relation to the intervention. Participating employers will be given information in advance about the level of time commitments and the potential benefits of the scheme.
Where is the study run from?
The study is based in the School for Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol (UK).
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
The study is for 27 months commencing October 2011.
Who is funding the study?
The study is funded by the NIHR public health research programme (UK).
Who is the main contact?
Dr Suzanne Audrey
Employer schemes to encourage walking to work: feasibility study incorporating an exploratory randomised controlled trial
The feasibility of developing and implementing employer-led schemes to increase walking to work
University of Bristol, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Research Ethics Committee, 16/08/2011
Exploratory interventional randomised controlled trial
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Patient information sheet
The participant information sheets are not available in web format. To request a patient information sheet, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phase I - review of resources, focus groups with employees, interviews with employers to finalise intervention.
Phase II - exploratory trial in 12 workplaces, process evaluation and assessment of costs
1. Eligible employees (living within two miles of the workplace who are able to walk to work but do not currently walk or cycle to work) will be identified through workplace records (matching postcodes of workplace and home address, and checking for disability status or other disqualifying factors e.g. delivery drivers who usually set off from home in the workplace vehicle).
2. Walk to Work promoters, nominated by participating employers, will be trained by expert members of the research team about the health, social, economic and environmental benefits of walking to work and how to identify and promote safe walking routes for employees. They will be given resource packs and trained to access relevant websites and toolkits [for example Walkit.com; Walkingworks.org.uk; Livingstreets.org]. The training will include communication strategies to give the Walk to Work promoters the confidence to encourage other employees to walk to work. The aim will be a maximum of 25 participants to each walk-to-work promoter. To manage the risk of absence of the Walk to Work promoter, one additional promoter will be recruited and trained in each workplace.
3. All eligible employees will be invited to a work-based group session, organised and delivered by the Walk to Work Promoter, lasting about one hour at which the benefits of walking to work will be presented and discussed. Employees who express an interest in walking to work will sign up at this stage. Safe, feasible walking routes will be identified. Goals for walking to work will be set.
4. Further encouragement will be provided through four contacts from the Walk to Work promoter over the following 10 weeks (face-to-face, email or telephone as appropriate)
Primary outcome measures
1. Workplace recruitment and retention rates
2. Employee eligibility, recruitment and retention rates
3. Sample size calculation with estimation of potential clustering within workplaces and potential feasible differences in outcome
1. Percentage of eligible employees walking to work
2. Eligible employees overall level of physical activity
Secondary outcome measures
1. Eligible employees level of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA)
2. Temporal pattern of physical activity (when activity has increased and any compensatory decrease)
3. Objective measure of route taken and physical activity associated with journey
1. Context, delivery and receipt of the intervention from the perspectives of employers, Walk to Work promoters, employees
2. Evidence of social patterning in uptake of walking to work (socio-economic status, age, gender, location)
3. Identified interpersonal, intrapersonal, community and organisational facilitators and barriers to walking to work
1. Costs and benefits to employers of implementing the scheme
2. Costs and benefits to employees of participating in the scheme
3. Health service use for general health problems and specific commuting related adverse events
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Participant inclusion criteria
Employees in 12 workplaces in Bristol who live within two miles of their workplace and are able to walk to work but do not usually walk or cycle to work.
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
1. Employees who live more than 2 miles from the workplace
2. Employees who usually walk or cycle to work
3. Employees who are disabled in relation to walking to work
4. Employees whose job involves regular driving throughout the day, for example delivery drivers or sales representatives, where their vehicle is not parked at the workplace overnight and they usually set off from home in the workplace vehicle
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
University of Bristol
University of Bristol (UK)
NIHR Public Health Research Programme Project ref: 10/3001/04
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Not provided at time of registration
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Not provided at time of registration
Results - basic reporting