Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Views and experiences of behaviour change techniques to encourage walking to work: a qualitative study

Sunita Procter1*, Nanette Mutrie2, Adrian Davis3 and Suzanne Audrey1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK

2 Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences, The Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh, St Leonard’s Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ, Scotland

3 Public Health Support to City Transport, Bristol City Council, City Hall, College Green, Bristol BS1 5RT, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:868  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-868

Published: 23 August 2014



High levels of physical inactivity are linked to several chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers and poor mental health. Encouraging people to be more active has proven difficult. One way to incorporate physical activity into the daily routine is through the journey to and from work. Although behaviour change techniques (BCTs) are considered valuable in promoting behaviour change, there is very little in the published literature about the views and experiences of those encouraged to use them.


The Walk to Work study was a feasibility study incorporating an exploratory cluster randomised controlled trial. The 10-week intervention involved training workplace-based Walk to Work promoters (volunteers or nominated by participating employers) to encourage colleagues to increase walking during their daily commute. The intervention used nine specific BCTs: Intention formation, barrier identification, specific goal setting, instruction, general encouragement, self-monitoring of behaviour social support, review of behavioural goals and relapse prevention. Digitally recorded interviews were undertaken with 22 employees, eight of whom were Walk to Work promoters to understand their views and experiences of using these techniques. The Framework method of data management and constant comparison were used to analyse the data and identify key themes.


For each individual BCT, there appeared to be people who found it useful in helping them to increase walking to work and others who did not. Following training, the Walk to Work promoters varied in the extent to which they were able to fulfil their role: additional support and encouragement during the 10-week intervention may be required for the promoters to maintain motivation. Wider contextual (economic climate, unprecedented wet weather) and organisational (workload, car parking facilities) issues were identified that influenced the delivery of, and response to, the intervention.


Walk to work interventions employing BCTs should include sufficient techniques to enable participants to choose a ‘package’ to suit their needs. Additional support at organisational level should also be encouraged, and consideration given to wider contextual factors that impinge on the delivery of, and response to, the intervention.

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Walking; Behaviour change techniques; Qualitative research; Active travel; Physical activity; Workplace