WORKSTATIONS that promote active movement can be effective in reducing sedentary time without compromising job performance, a new review suggests.
This could be good news for employees in low-movement industries, including office workers and call centre workers, who spend up to 82 per cent of their day sedentary, according to a 2009 study.
Given that sitting for 11 hours or more a day increases a person’s risk of heart disease by 50 per cent, even if they exercise regularly, and doubles the risk of colon cancer, the new findings could literally be life-saving.
Activity-permissive workstations include desks fitted with stepping or pedal devices, height-adjusted workstations that enable standing, and treadmill desks.
“In industrialised countries, most working adults spend a high proportion of their waking hours in the workplace, in increasingly sedentary occupations, often in long, unbroken bouts at a computer,” says Professor Leon Straker from Curtin University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
Prof Straker says concerns with static sitting used to deal mostly with ergonomics, and musculoskeletal outcomes, but recent research has examined links to more serious health consequences, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and premature mortality.
“Our findings suggest that using activity-permissive workstations can have a range of positive benefits, including reductions in workplace sedentary time, lower body mass index and reduced musculoskeletal discomfort.”
The study found that work performance was overwhelmingly unaffected by activity-permissive workstations, and employees reported strong perceptions of positive health outcomes and improved productivity.
Participants reported negative feedback in only two of 26 studies, including one instance where a participant asked for removal of the workstation due to body pain.
In view of this feedback, Prof Straker suggests a range of workstation models should be considered and tailored to individual needs and tasks.
Lead researcher Ms Maike Neuhaus says more research is required to evaluate the impact of activity-permissive workstations on longer-term outcomes, such as cardio-metabolic disorders and productivity.
The comprehensive review included researchers from The University of Queensland, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Curtin University and involved more than three dozen relevant peer-reviewed publications and close to a thousand participants.