Sit-stand tables reduce daily sitting time and can improve job performance and work involvement, a study in the United Kingdom shows.
Researchers studying 146 National Health Services employees found that after a year of using sit-stand tables, in combination with training programs, workers' sitting times were cut more than one hour a day. Furthermore, sitting desk users have an increase in job performance, job involvement and recovery from work fatigue.
"Simply replacing some time sitting every day with standing may be useful in many different ways for health and may save costs for employers," Dr. Charlotte Edwardson, lead author of the study, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Sitting all day at "desk work" has been linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and previous deaths, the authors wrote in BMJ.
For this study, they randomly assigned 77 people to participate in the so-called SMArT Work intervention, where workers receive high-altitude workstations, along with instructions for using them, goal-setting booklets, quick and self-monitoring tools, and training sessions . The remaining 69 volunteers continue to work on traditional workstations that cannot be adjusted.
Sitting time was measured using a device worn in the thigh at the beginning of the study and again after three months, six months and 12 months. Participants also answered questionnaires about job performance, work involvement, mood conditions and quality of life.
At the start of the study, participants in both groups sat for almost 10 hours per day, on average. Compared to participants who maintained their usual workstation, those who sat at a table sat for 34 minutes less per day after three months, 59 minutes less per day after six months and 82 minutes less per day after one year.
The intervention group also showed improvements in job performance, work involvement, work fatigue, daily anxiety, and quality of life, the authors report. They also have fewer musculoskeletal complaints.
However, there is no difference seen for sick days.
The pattern of improvement over time suggests that this approach can produce a sustained reduction in sitting beyond 12 months that is very important for public health, Dr. Cindy Gray at the University of Glasgow wrote in the accompanying editorial.
However, Gray noted, at 12 months the participants were still sitting for more than six to eight hours per day, on average, which was still an unhealthy level.
The limitation of the study, the authors admit, is that it is done in one organization.
In addition, the level of physical activity of the sitting table user remains unchanged. While they sit less, they only stand more, which results in fewer health benefits compared to sitting down with periods of mild physical activity.
However, the authors write, this type of intervention – combining environmental changes with additional strategies such as education, self-monitoring and short training – is worthy of further research.
"We don't say no sitting, we all have to sit down," Edwardson told Reuters Health. "But it gets the right balance between the amount of time we spend sitting and the amount of time we spend on our feet."