Researchers Investigate the Health Benefits of Sit-Stand Desks for Hospital Staff

A recent study, conducted by researchers at Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, has assessed the benefits of optional standing workstations on employee productivity, presenteeism, anxiety, fatigue and back pain. Findings were published in a British Medical Journal publication.[i]

In edition 159 of BC Disease News (here), our feature article considered the occupational health risks of excessive sitting. It is thought that prolonged periods of sitting slows the metabolism and increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders and type II diabetes.[ii]

If employees were to provide adaptive workstations for its employees, which offer the flexibility to stand, would this reduce associated health risks?

146 NHS Trust staff participated in the Stand More AT (SMArT) Work trial.[iii]

Of these, 77 participants received:

  • A height-adjustable workstation (sit-stand desks);
  • A brief seminar with supporting leaflet;
  • Workstation instructions with sitting and standing targets;
  • Feedback on sitting and physical activity at three time points;
  • Posters;
  • An action planning and goal setting booklet;
  • A self-monitoring and prompt tool; and
  • Coaching sessions (initially after 1 month and every 3 months thereafter).

The remaining 69 participants formed a control group and continued with usual practice.

Occupational sitting time was measured every 3, 6 and 12 months with a thigh monitor. After 12 months, the group with sit-stand desks spent 83 fewer minutes seated, on average, than the control group. However, the reduction in sitting time, from an average of 9.7 hours to between 6 and 8 hours daily, was still associated with cardiovascular disease mortality.

On secondary outcomes of sit-stand desks, the study authors concluded that:

‘Results were ... suggestive of improvements and benefits in ... job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, sickness presenteeism, and psychological health, although these tended to be at the later follow-up time points. No notable changes were found in job satisfaction, cognitive function, and sickness absence’.

Moreover, in the intervention group, a smaller proportion of participants reported that lower back problems prevented them from carrying out normal activities, after a 12 follow-up period.

 

[i] Charlotte L Edwardson et al, Effectiveness of the Stand More AT (SMArT) Work intervention: cluster randomised controlled trial BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3870 (Published 10 October 2018) accessed 16 October 2018.

[ii] H. Susan J Picavet et al, ‘The Relation Between Occupational Sitting and Mental, Cardiometabolic, and Musculoskeletal Health Over a Period Of 15 years – The Doetinchem Cohort Study’, PLoS One. 2016; 11(1): e0146639.

[iii] Ashleigh Webber, ‘Study highlights health and work benefits of sit-stand desks’ (Occupational Health & Wellbeing) <https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/study-highlights-sit-stand-desk-benefits/> accessed 16 October 2018.