It’s no secret that the sedentary lifestyles many people in the UK lead are having a negative impact on their health. For example, earlier this year, a study found that just two weeks of sedentary office working can put people on the path to diabetes.
Now new research suggests that a simple change of desk could not only improve the physical health of office workers, but also boost their energy and engagement levels too.
For the research, led by a team from Loughborough University and experts from Leicester, a group of mainly sedentary NHS staff were asked to use a different type of desk in their offices, and try to hit standing goals over a 12-month period. After a year, the researchers then assessed what the effect of the desk and extra standing periods had been.
Specifically, 146 NHS staff were enrolled to take part in the study. They were split into two groups of 77 and 69. The larger group were given height-adjustable workstations, also known as sit-stand desks, while the rest continued to use their standard desks.
The amount of time workers spent sitting was measured at the start and the end of the study, as well as at three- and six-month milestones.
It was discovered that the group utilising the sit-stand desks reduced their time seated each day significantly. In fact, at the start of the study, they were sitting an average of 9.7 hours a day. By the end, that had reduced by 82.39 minutes per day, highlighting the impact the sit-stand desks were having on their working habits.
As a result, the group with the height-adjustable workstations said they were less tired and more engaged at work. Furthermore, they also reported improvements in musculoskeletal problems and a boost in productivity.
Office Workers Among The Most Sedentary
Speaking about the study, the findings of which were published in the British Medical Journal, Dr Charlotte Edwardson, of the University of Leicester, said: “Occupational sedentary behaviour specifically has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes and mortality and musculoskeletal problems such as neck and shoulder pain.”
The study found that office workers are among the most sedentary, spending 70% to 85% of their day at work seated.
While the group with the sit-stand desks did not move around more than the group using the standard desks (both groups recorded similar numbers of steps each day), they spent a lot more time standing while working.
Sitting for prolonged periods – like people when they are working in office environments – is frequently highlighted as a potential health risk for individuals. The risk of developing conditions such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease is thought to be increased in workers who spend most of their time sat down.
In June this year, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, insisted that all workers in the company’s California headquarters be given standing desks. He described sitting as “the new cancer”.
Is it time more businesses consider utilising sit-stand desks? The wellbeing benefits for staff, and productivity boosts, speak for themselves. They certainly help justify the investment.
I have over 18 years experience in the Medical Insurance Industry, much of that spent working for Aviva Health in the Distribution team. I joined Premier Choice in 2015 and in that time I have been helping clients to develop the best possible approach to protecting their health. My understanding of how insurers work puts me in a strong position to negotiate the best solutions on behalf of our clients.