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The effects of a graduated aerobic exercise programme on cardiovascular disease risk factors in the NHS workplace: a randomised controlled trial

Jennifer A Hewitt12*, Gregory P Whyte4, Michelle Moreton2, Ken A van Someren15 and Tanya S Levine3

Author Affiliations

1 Kingston University, Kingston Upon Thames, UK

2 St George's, University Of London, Tooting, UK

3 North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, Harrow, UK

4 Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

5 English Institute Of Sport, Twickenham, UK

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2008, 3:7  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-3-7

Published: 28 February 2008



Sufficient levels of physical activity provide cardio-protective benefit. However within developed society sedentary work and inflexible working hours promotes physical inactivity. Consequently to ensure a healthy workforce there is a requirement for exercise strategies adaptable to occupational time constraint. This study examined the effect of a 12 week aerobic exercise training intervention programme implemented during working hours on the cardiovascular profile of a sedentary hospital workforce.


Twenty healthy, sedentary full-time staff members of the North West London Hospital Trust cytology unit were randomly assigned to an exercise (n = 12; mean ± SD age 41 ± 8 years, body mass 69 ± 12 kg) or control (n = 8; mean ± SD age 42 ± 8 years, body mass 69 ± 12 kg) group. The exercise group was prescribed a progressive aerobic exercise-training programme to be performed 4 times a week for 8 weeks (initial intensity 65% peak oxygen consumption (VO2 peak)) and to be conducted without further advice for another 4 weeks. The control was instructed to maintain their current physical activity level. Oxygen economy at 2 minutes (2minVO2), 4 minutes (4minVO2), VO2 peak, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), BMI, C-reactive protein (CRP), fasting glucose (GLU) and total cholesterol (TC) were determined in both groups pre-intervention and at 4 week intervals. Both groups completed a weekly Leisure Time Questionnaire to quantify additional exercise load.


The exercise group demonstrated an increase from baseline for VO2 peak at week 4 (5.8 ± 6.3 %) and 8 (5.0 ± 8.7 %) (P < 0.05). 2minVO2 was reduced from baseline at week 4 (-10.2 ± 10.3 %), 8 (-16.8 ± 10.6 %) and 12 (-15.1 ± 8.7 %), and 4minVO2 at week 8 (-10.7 ± 7.9 %) and 12 (-6.8 ± 9.2) (P < 0.05). There was also a reduction from baseline in CRP at week 4 (-0.4 ± 0.6 mg·L-1) and 8 (-0.9 ± 0.8 mg·L-1) (P < 0.05). The control group showed no such improvements.


This is the first objectively monitored RCT to show that moderate exercise can be successfully incorporated into working hours, to significantly improve physical capacity and cardiovascular health.