The Exertime Story

In 2009, in response to TV programmes like the Biggest Loser, Drs. Scott Pedersen and Dean Cooley decided that the public's’ view of what they need to do to achieve a health benefit from being involved in physical activity was skewed towards the “huff and puff” theatrics of these shows and the aggressive approach used by their personnel.

We felt such a view turned the majority of people away from attempting to participate in physical activity. In fact, it was these very people who would benefit the most from participating in some form of physical activity. From our academic backgrounds we knew that the research indicated that people could achieve health gains by simply increasing their movement during the working day. Consequently, we decided to develop a workplace e-health programme designed to appeal to the majority of the population.

In 2010, we teamed up with Tasmania Department of Police and Emergency Management and the Tasmanian government through the Healthy@Work grant scheme to implement our plan, Project PAUSE (Physical Activity Using Short-burst Exercise), a collaborative scientific study to test the effects of movement breaks on desk-based workers.

Project PAUSE was developed to add short-bursts of physical activity to the work habits of people engaged in desk-based work. This unique physical activity intervention to prompt employees to engage in short-bursts of activity throughout the workday saw the development of an initial version of Exertime that has been continuously updated to become the Exertime e-health programme that exists today.

Exertime is based on the need to decrease the amount of sitting associated with desk-based work. Thus, short, low intensity bouts of activity performed throughout the day should improve the health of desk-based employees. Moreover, Exertime activities are designed so that employees can perform them at their desk or within their workplace without the need for a change of clothes or a subsequent shower.
Research demonstrates that prolonged sitting is associated with several adverse health risks. What is troubling about this research is that this risk is not alleviated with single bouts of typical daily exercise. Thus, the daily jog at lunchtime may be good for cardiovascular health but it does not reduce the health risk factors associated with prolonged sitting.

Exertime was designed based on this research to reintroduce movement back into the workday by regularly interrupting the time spent sitting at your desk. The software prompts workers to stand and if they wish to do a little more, then the software suggests various physical activities. Exertime activities are merely suggestions, each employee can choose how much or how little s/he engages with the prompt. At the very least, though, we ask that you consider your health and stand up during the prompted break. Following the break, your activity will be logged and the employee can see his/her cumulative effort throughout the day, week, month, or year. 

We found some encouraging results with Tasmania Police employees just after 13 weeks of exposure to Exertime. Employees, who used the software and moved more regularly throughout the day, exhibited significantly decreased mean arterial blood pressure, by significantly increasing their self-reported workday energy expenditure. Moreover, the employees felt as if the program helped to increase their work productivity by adding an element of structure to their day.

These findings (and other workplace behaviour variables of interest) have been reproduced in departments across the Tasmanian government. Click here to read more about the field-based research conducted by the UTAS Active Work Laboratory.

Currently, Exertime is being utilised by researchers interested in healthy workplaces around the globe. The UTAS Active Work Laboratory is collaborating on research projects with researchers in the UK, USA, India, and China. For more details of this research network see the interactive map below.

If these results sound encouraging to you, and you can see Exertime improving your workplace health culture, then register your interest so we can help put you on the path to better health.