Workplace Strategies to Reduce Sitting Time

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Maike Neuhaus, MPsych
Australian Postgraduate Award PhD Candidate
Cancer Prevention Research Centre
School of Population Health
The University of Queensland
Herston, QLD 4006 Australia

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Substantial epidemiological evidence shows that high volumes of sedentary behaviour – simply put  too much sitting- are linked to detrimental health outcomes such as overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and all-cause mortality. Desk-based office workers typically spend around 75% of their work hours sitting at their desks or in meetings. Furthermore, they are unlikely to compensate for these high volumes of sitting time at work with less sedentary activities outside of work. Office workers are thus a high-risk group and an important target for intervention.

The Stand Up UQ study examined best-practice approaches to reduce excessive sitting in office workers. Three separate groups of administrative office workers from The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, participated in this study: One group received height-adjustable workstations only; another group received the same height-adjustable workstations plus additional individual (e.g. face-to-face coaching) and organisational strategies (e.g. management consultation, staff information session) to reduce workplace sitting; the third group served as control group and maintained their usual work-practice. Results showed that relative to the control group, the group receiving height-adjustable workstations and additional strategies had a three-fold greater reduction in sitting time than the group receiving height-adjustable workstations only. These findings have important practical and financial implications for workplaces targeting sitting time reductions.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: The workplace health promotion literature certainly speaks to the need for comprehensive approaches to improving health behaviour in the work force. Furthermore, we know from intervention studies aiming to increase moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity that individuals benefit from more intense support than just the provision of exercise equipment. However, to date, knowledge about the determinants of sedentary behaviour is limited, with mechanisms influencing this behaviour potentially being very different from those identified in physical activity research studies. It was therefore interesting to find such distinct results.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Due to advances in technology, we now sit more than ever before, particularly so in desk-based office workplaces. Considering the detrimental health impacts of too much sitting, it is important to consider strategies to reduce sitting. Our study results suggest that workplaces should implement multiple strategies including activity-permissive work stations along with organisational and individual behaviour change elements in order to achieve substantial reductions in sitting time.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Future studies should investigate if any particular strategies may be more effective than others. Considering the financial ramifications for workplaces when implementing such interventions, it is of particular interest to examine if there is a difference in the effectiveness of individual vs. organisational behaviour change strategies applied in the Stand Up UQ study. Larger scale randomised controlled trials are currently underway to assess the sustainability of sitting time reductions over time, as well as potential impacts on health biomarkers.

Citation:
Workplace Sitting and Height-Adjustable Workstations

Maike Neuhaus, Genevieve N. Healy, David W. Dunstan, Neville Owen, Elizabeth G. Eakin
American Journal of Preventive Medicine – January 2014 (Vol. 46, Issue 1, Pages 30-40, DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.09.009)