Standing desks can reduce sitting time in sedentary office workers
These measures have also been associated with small improvements in workplace stress, health and energy levels, although the researchers stress that these improvements are not clinically significant. .
Health risks of a sedentary lifestyle
A growing body of evidence indicates that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with higher levels of chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, as well as rates of depression and higher anxiety.
Office workers are one of the most sedentary groups of the populationspend 73% of their workday and 66% of their waking day sitting, but studies looking at ways to reduce sitting at work was considered low quality.
To address these research gaps, a team of UK-based researchers, with collaborators in Australia set out to assess the impact of SMART Work & Life (SWAL), a measure interventions designed to reduce sitting time and increase travel time at work, with and without standing desks, delivered by champions at work.
The trial involved 756 office workers from two councils in Leicester, three in Greater Manchester and one in Liverpool. Participants were randomly assigned to a SWAL intervention, a standing desk SWAL intervention, or a control group (work as usual) for a period of 12 months.
The average age of the participants was 45, of which 72% were women, 75% were Caucasian British and 85% worked full time. The mean body mass index (BMI) at the start of the study was 26.5.
The SWAL intervention team was provided with a range of resources to help them reduce sitting time, and highlighted the health risks of excessive sitting.
Workplaces are also encouraged to make small changes around the office to allow for more mobility, such as moving printers and waste bins and creating standing areas for meetings.
The SWAL plus table group also received height-adjustable desks to encourage less sitting time. The control group continued to work as usual.
The workers’ sitting time was measured with a device (accelerometer) worn on their lap at the start of the study and again at 12 months.
Daily physical activity levels and self-reported feedback on work, physical and mental health were also recorded.
The SWAL intervention plus standing desk was three times more effective in reducing sitting time than the SWAL intervention.
For example, at 12 months, the daily sitting time of the SWAL and SWAL groups plus a standing desk was 22 minutes and 64 minutes lower, on average, than the control group, respectively.
Small, but non-clinically significant improvements in work-related stress, well-being and feelings of strength were found in both intervention groups compared with controls at three and 12 months, as well as in the control groups at three and 12 months. such as lower extremity pain (hips, knees and ankles) in the SWAL plus table group.
Although sitting time was lower in both intervention groups than in the control group, the researchers noted that most participants simply replaced sitting with standing, and they said extra work was needed to encourage more physical activity, especially outside of work hours.
A randomized controlled trial is considered the most reliable way to determine if an intervention is indeed having the desired effect, but the researchers point to some limitations.
For example, participants were aware of the purpose of their motion-measuring device, which may have influenced their behavior. And participants may have been selective in their responses to the questionnaire – a phenomenon known as ‘reporting bias.’
However, this is a large, well-designed test that simulates a real-world intervention, and the results are similar after further sensitivity analyses, showing that they are robust.
They also show that the participants were selected from three different regions in the UK, which strengthens the case for a broader rollout of the findings.
How to deal with a sedentary lifestyle at work?
Therefore, the researchers say that both SWAL and SWAL plus desks are associated with reduce sitting timein spite of The addition of a height-adjustable desk is said to be three times more efficient.
And they point to areas for future research, such as discovering how people can best be supported to make changes outside of work and increase travel time, across job areas. do differently and over a longer period of time.
In a linked editorial, Professor Cindy Gray from the University of Glasgow said: “These findings are remarkable because they come from a fully powered randomized trial with objective measurement of sedentary behavior at 3 and 12 months”.
However, she points out that the shift to more inclusive and work-from-home models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase the sedentary status of the workforce. Therefore, she says, “understand how to optimize career interventions to support people sitting less and moving more around their home during both working and off-hours is essential. “
1. Efficacy of an intervention to reduce sitting time and improve health in office workers: a randomized controlled trial of three arm clusters – (https: doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2021-069288)