Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Diet, physical exercise and cognitive behavioral training as a combined workplace based intervention to reduce body weight and increase physical capacity in health care workers - a randomized controlled trial

Jeanette R Christensen1*, Anne Faber2, Dorte Ekner2, Kristian Overgaard1, Andreas Holtermann2 and Karen Søgaard3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sport Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

2 National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark

3 Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:671  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-671

Published: 27 August 2011



Health care workers comprise a high-risk workgroup with respect to deterioration and early retirement. There is high prevalence of obesity and many of the workers are overweight. Together, these factors play a significant role in the health-related problems within this sector. The present study evaluates the effects of the first 3-months of a cluster randomized controlled lifestyle intervention among health care workers. The intervention addresses body weight, general health variables, physical capacity and musculoskeletal pain.


98 female, overweight health care workers were cluster-randomized to an intervention group or a reference group. The intervention consisted of an individually dietary plan with an energy deficit of 1200 kcal/day (15 min/hour), strengthening exercises (15 min/hour) and cognitive behavioral training (30 min/hour) during working hours 1 hour/week. Leisure time aerobic fitness was planned for 2 hour/week. The reference group was offered monthly oral presentations. Body weight, BMI, body fat percentage (bioimpedance), waist circumference, blood pressure, musculoskeletal pain, maximal oxygen uptake (maximal bicycle test), and isometric maximal muscle strength of 3 body regions were measured before and after the intervention period.


In an intention-to-treat analysis from pre to post tests, the intervention group significantly reduced body weight with 3.6 kg (p < 0.001), BMI from 30.5 to 29.2 (p < 0.001), body fat percentage from 40.9 to 39.3 (p < 0.001), waist circumference from 99.7 to 95.5 cm (p < 0.001) and blood pressure from 134/85 to 127/80 mmHg (p < 0.001), with significant difference between the intervention and control group (p < 0.001) on all measures. No effect of intervention was found in musculoskeletal pain, maximal oxygen uptake and muscle strength, but on aerobic fitness.


The significantly reduced body weight, body fat, waist circumference and blood pressure as well as increased aerobic fitness in the intervention group show the great potential of workplace health promotion among this high-risk workgroup. Long-term effects of the intervention remain to be investigated.

Trial registration NCT01015716