Standing desks ‘could cut sitting time by an hour a day’ for office workers

A new study found that the devices, among other measures, could help reduce sedentary behaviour.

17 August 2022

Using a standing desk could help reduce sitting time for more than an hour a day among office workers, a new study suggests.

Standing desks, among other measures, could help reduce sedentary behaviour among some workers, researchers found.

Previous studies have shown that office-based staff spend about 73% of their work day and 66% of their waking day sitting.

As a result some companies have opted to buy height-adjustable desks for staff.

Sit-stand desks have grown in popularity, offering desk-bound workers the chance to sit or stand during their working day.

To assess the impact of such desks, along with workplace interventions to encourage more movement, academics decided to perform a study on local government workers from Leicester, Greater Manchester and Liverpool.

Researchers, led by experts from the University of Leicester, examined 756 participants with an average age of 45.

Before being recruited to the study, the council workers spent most of their days sitting.

They were split into three groups: one group continued behaviour as normal, another were given height-adjustable desks and took part in a programme called SWAL (Smart Work and Life), while others took part in the programme without a new desk.

The programme encourages participants to consider strategies to reduce their sedentary time, and to break up sitting both at work and on non-workdays, it gives them access to information and apps.

It also offers support in the workplace through training and support from workplace champions, as well as changes to the office environment to encourage less sitting, such as “standing meetings” and moving bins and printers to encourage more movement.

Workers’ sitting time was measured using an accelerometer device which tracks movement.

It was worn on the thigh at the start of the study for a period of eight days and again a year later.

Those who took part in the SWAL programme – with or without a desk – were found to have reduced their sitting time, according to the study published in The BMJ.

Participants who took part in the programme decreased sitting time by an average of 22 minutes a day compared with those who did not change their behaviour.

When given a height-adjustable desk as well as access to the other office-based interventions, people reduced their average daily sitting time for 64 minutes a day.

Researchers said that they also noticed improvements in stress and wellbeing among the groups who changed their behaviour.

But no improvements in sedentary behaviour were noticed outside of work hours.

The authors wrote: “Office-based workers spend most of their working day sitting and also show high levels of sitting time outside of work.

“High levels of sitting time are associated with several health-related outcomes and premature mortality, with high levels of workplace sitting associated with low vigour and job performance and high levels of presenteeism.

“The Smart Work and Life (SWAL) intervention (with and without a height adjustable desk) was effective in reducing daily sitting time.

“The SWAL plus desk intervention was three times was more effective at reducing sitting time than the SWAL intervention.”

In a linked editorial, Cindy Gray, professor of health and behaviour at the University of Glasgow, said that the study suggests that the “provision of height adjustable desks may be important to deliver clinically relevant health benefits”.

But she highlighted that many of the participants replaced sitting with standing, when ideally people would be using the opportunity to move more.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.