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Stand up at work and improve your health

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
prolong sitting, health risk, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer

Prolonged sitting has been reported by numerous studies to be detrimental health. In view of this, researchers affiliated with Journey Well, HealthPartners (Minneapolis, Minnesota) conducted a study that examined whether improvement of certain health factors would occur with a reduction of sitting among workers with sedentary jobs. They published their findings in the October issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers note that in the contemporary work place, many workers spend more than half of their entire work day seated prolonged sitting time. This is associated with: premature mortality; chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; metabolic syndrome; and obesity. In contrast, breaks in prolonged sitting time have been correlated with beneficial metabolic profiles among adults, suggesting that frequent breaks in sedentary activity may explain lower health risk related to waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), triglyceride levels, and 2-hour plasma glucose levels.

The researchers conducted their study during March–May 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, among employees with sedentary jobs. They developed a Take-a-Stand Project, which involved modifying the physical and psychosocial environments by redesigning work stations to include a sit-stand device for the employee. Project implementation occurred over seven weeks with a baseline period of one week (period 1), an intervention period of four weeks (period 2), and a post-intervention period of two weeks (period 3). The intervention group (24 workers) received a sit-stand device during period 2 designed to fit their workstation, and the comparison group (10 workers) did not. They employed experience-sampling methods to monitor sitting behavior at work during the seven weeks of the project. They estimated change scores in sitting time, health risk factors, mood states, and several office behaviors on the basis of survey responses.

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The investigators found that the Take-a-Stand Project reduced time spent sitting by 224% (66 minutes per day), reduced upper back and neck pain by 54%, and improved mood states. Furthermore, the removal of the device largely negated all observed improvements within two weeks. As part of the survey conducted at the end of the study period, the intervention group was asked about the perceived benefits of having the sit-stand devices in their workspaces. The responses were mostly favorable: 87% said they felt more comfortable in their work environments; 87% said they felt more energized; 75% reported feeling healthier; 71% felt more focused; 66% felt more productive; 62% felt happier; and 33% said they felt less stressed in their jobs.

The authors concluded that their findings suggest that using a sit-stand device at work can reduce sitting time and generate other health benefits for workers.

Reference: Preventing Chronic Disease

This page is updated on May 12, 2013.