What Really Helps Reduce Sit Time at Work?

Desk-based workers sit for an average of six hours during an eight-hour work day, much of it in bouts of 30 minutes or more. As the health consequences of too much sitting are becoming clearer, more researchers and employers are trying to find ways to decrease sitting time at work.

One solution is to provide a height-adjustable workstation that allows workers to alternate between sitting and standing. But is just giving someone a new workstation enough, or is organisational support and health education also needed?

To find out, researchers assigned three administrative units at the University of Queensland to one of three conditions: control (no change in workstation); providing a height-adjustable workstation: or a multi-component intervention. In addition to providing a height-adjustable workstation, the multi-component intervention included interventions at the organisational, environmental and individual levels, such as consultations with management, emails to the staff from managers, and individual counselling, including in-person advice. All of the study participants wore monitors for seven days at the start and end of the three-month intervention to track movement.

At the start of the study they spent about 77% of their work day sitting. After the intervention, sitting time was decreased by 33 minutes per working day in the group that only got new workstations; nonetheless, their time spent sitting was not significantly different from that in the control group. Sitting time was reduced by 89 minutes per working day among those who took part in the multi-component intervention, which was a significant reduction, the researchers said.

The researchers concluded that simply providing height-adjustable workstations may not be sufficient to reduce sitting time at work, and that more intensive interventions at the organisational, environmental and individual levels may be needed.

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