BACKGROUND: Inactive individuals face motivational obstacles for becoming and remaining physically active. Therefore, sustainable physical activity promotion programmes tailored to reach inactive individuals are needed. The aim of this study was to test the role of motivation and the effect and feasibility of a training programme.
METHODS: We enrolled physically inactive female hospital staff members aged 45 and older in an uncontrolled exercise trial. Follow-up assessments were at 3 and 12 months. The primary outcome was running distance (Cooper test). Secondary outcomes were level of physical activity (Freiburger Physical Activity Questionnaire) and body mass index.
RESULTS: Out of 1249 female hospital staff, 275 classified themselves as inactive and 250 (91%) of them were interested in the exercise programme. Of these, 68 (27%; mean age 53.2 years) agreed to participate in our study and 47 (69%) completed the programme. Average running distance increased by 255.70 m [95% confidence interval (CI) 208.09-303.31] at 3-month follow-up with a sustained benefit at 12-month follow-up (194.02; 95% CI 143.75-244.47). Physical activity level increased by 1152.52 kcal week(-1) (95% CI 703.73-1601.32) at 3 months with a sustained benefit (1279.10 kcal week(-1), 95% CI 826.80-1731.40) after 12 months. Notably, baseline motivation to become physically active was not associated with change in physical performance or physical activity level during the programme.
CONCLUSION: The 3-month step-up jogging programme is a feasible and effective exercise intervention for physically inactive, middle-aged female hospital staff members. The intervention leads to sustained benefits independently of motivation to become more physically active.