A team from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga recently presented research based on the activity level of UTC employees at the 2nd International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Because physical inactivity has clearly been associated with high risk for development of chronic disease and escalation of healthcare costs, the team decided a simple screening mechanism was needed to identify individuals whose health status could be improved through increased physical activity. The UTC study assessed the accuracy of Patient-Centered Assessment and Counseling for Exercise (PACE) survey responses to identify less than optimal health in participants.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially funded PACE research eighteen years ago with the purpose of providing tools for primary care physicians to counsel patients on a more active lifestyle. Since then PACE’s target audience has grown as has the list of those it assists to improve health with exercise, diet and lifestyle changes.
In the UTC pilot program, team members including Drs. Gregory Heath, Gary Wilkerson, Burch Oglesby, Christine Smith and Carol Oglesby analyzed the effectiveness of behavior-based assessment and counseling for physical activity coupled with improved access to physical activity programming for walking and active recreation. All 118 participants were initially assessed for physical activity and counseled according to the PACE protocols. They were also provided a physical activity plan.
UTC participants were given maps outlining safe walking routes on the Riverwalk, the seven-mile trail with adjacent parks located near the University.
Expanded programming offered on campus also proved beneficial. Participants were invited to a walking-for-fitness class and a variety of other classes including aerobics, belly dancing, Tai Chi, yoga, water aerobics and personal training services.
The group was surveyed electronically. Participants engaged in body composition analysis and metabolic syndrome assessment.
The team decided a PACE survey response provides an extremely simple means to classify the current physical activity level of an individual and it appears to provide a good indicator of general health status. Additionally, the team said the availability of educational materials designed to facilitate behavior change makes the PACE program a potentially valuable component of employer-sponsored initiatives for employee health enhancement.
When team members analyzed the effects of behavior-based assessment and counseling for physical activity, they found 33% of all UTC participants improved their behavior in terms of physical activity and there was a significant increase in the proportion of participants who were able to achieve recommended levels of physical activity. Results showed a 27% increase among those who had been inactive and increased their physical activity to recommended levels and a 20% increase among those who had been insufficiently active and boosted their activity level to the recommended level.
The team suggested that the UTC study results show a need to further examine the role of environmental supports in promoting physical activity among university faculty, staff, and students.