Office-based physical activity: Mapping a social ecological model approach against COM-B

Yasmin F. Van Kasteren, Lucy K. Lewis, Anthony Maeder

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: There are growing concerns over the health impacts of occupational sedentary behaviour on office-based workers and increasing workplace recognition of the need to increase physical activity at work. Social ecological models provide a holistic framework for increasing opportunities for physical activity at work. In this paper we propose a social ecological model of office-based physical activity and map it against the Capability Motivation Opportunity (COM-B) framework to highlight the mechanisms of behaviour change that can increase levels of physical activity of office-based workers. Discussion: The paper proposes a social ecological model of physical activity associated with office-based settings. The model considers opportunities for both incidental and discretionary activities, as well as macro and micro factors on both socio-cultural and physical dimensions. The COM-B framework for characterising behaviour change interventions is used to highlight the underlying mechanisms of behaviour change inherent in the model. Summary: The broad framework provided by social ecological models is important for understanding physical activity in office-based settings because of the non-discretionary nature of sedentary behaviour of office-based work. It is important for interventions not to rely on individual motivation for behaviour change alone but to incorporate changes to the broader social ecological and physical context to build capability and create opportunities for more sustainable change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • COM-B
  • Office work
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behaviour
  • Social ecological model


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