Intervention study of physical inactivity at office and VDU workplaces: development of a method inventory

Project No. IFA 4180


completed 01/2011


Physical inactivity and the unbalanced stress caused by continual sitting present a serious health hazard. Besides disorders of the musculoskeletal system and metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, mental disorders are also among the consequences of sustained inactivity. In view of the steady rise in the number of office workplaces involving little movement, the development and evaluation of suitable measures for promoting movement at the workplace is of great importance. Effects upon the movement behaviour of persons can for example be recorded subjectively by means of questionnaires, or objectively by means of movement sensors.
Some measures for the promotion of movement have been shown to be effective. However, the observed effects have rarely been quantified by means of occupational medical progress parameters.
In order for ergonomic and occupational medical methods to be used in the future for the observation of intervention effects, a comprehensive inventory of methods was developed and a randomized controlled intervention study (n = 25) conducted in which they were trialled.


25 persons with full-time jobs at VDU workplaces took part in the intervention study. Measures for circumstantial and behavioural prevention were employed in order to promote activity behaviour among the intervention group (n = 13). The intervention measure lasted for twelve weeks. During this time, the movement behaviour of the test subjects at the workplace was recorded daily by means of activity logs and by a standard activity sensor (AiperMotion 320). The activity behaviour prior to and at the end of the intervention measures was documented by means of the CUELA Activity System. The following further measures were applied before and after the intervention, for documentation of the progress:
Standardized questionnaires (e. g. SF-12) were used to record mental and physical well-being and the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders. In order to measure the mobility, an occupational medical study of the musculoskeletal system based upon the fokus® system was developed and conducted. The Physical Working Capacity (PWC) test, employing a cycle apparatus, was used to measure endurance. In addition, the maximum force was measured by means of dynamometers and the strength endurance by means of standardized muscle-function tests used in rehabilitation medicine.


The methods employed identified a whole range of significant positive intervention effects. Increases in the mobility of individual joints and directions of movement were detected by means of the function diagnostics. The force tests diagnosed an increase in the maximum force of the back muscles and improved endurance force of the back, abdominal and shoulder muscles. Several questionnaires revealed an increase in subjective well-being. The precise analytical recording of the activity revealed increases in the duration of standing and movement and in the intensity of activity. The activity logs and simple recording of movements by means of activity sensors showed the intervention group to be more active over the entire period than the control group.
The significant results confirm that many of the methods employed are suitable for the quantification of intervention effects. For the methods which did not indicate any significant effects, it is unclear whether this can be attributed to a lack of sensitivity of the method or to the ineffectiveness of the intervention measures. In the future, a selectively reduced version of the method inventory can be used for comprehensive analyses of the effectiveness of measures for the promotion of physical activity.

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Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung - Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum (IPA)


Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


Physische Beanspruchung/Belastung, Gesundheitsförderung, Muskel-Skelett-Erkrankungen (außer Krebserkrankungen)

Description, key words:

office and VDU workplaces, recording of movement, promotion of physical activity, prevention of physical inactivity, office workplaces, occupational medical prognostic parameters, method development