More standing at work can mean more sitting at home

Professor Stuart Biddle, an international researcher in sedentary behaviour, says that using a standing desk at work may unwittingly influence the amount of time people spend sitting at home.

In a world-first investigation into the ripple effects of sit-stand workstations, researchers at Victoria University and Loughborough University in England found that office workers at sit-stand workstations compensated for standing at work by sitting more than normal at home.

The study, published recently in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, monitored the activity patterns of 40 healthy, but sedentary university office workers who were provided with sit-stand desks.

During a three-month period, the workers increased their total daily standing time at both home and office from around five hours to 6 1/2 hours, while their average total sitting time dropped from 10 hours to about 8 ½ hours.

But their proportion of chair-time at home increased when compared to the start of the study.

Professor Biddle is part of VU’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) and helped set up national guidelines in England to reduce sitting.

He said the compensation effect was surprising.  

“It’s great to sit less at work, but we shouldn’t then assume we can sit all evening,” he said.

Professor Biddle said the message from the study was that people wishing to sit less should consciously think about their behaviour throughout the day, especially away from the office.

To undo the effects of prolonged sitting at home, Dr Biddle advised walking or doing tasks during TV commercials, and tracking the amount of chair-time so it does not exceed 30 minutes at a time.

“The first step to changing behaviour is to monitor and count sitting times,” he said.

Tips for reduced sitting at work include taking the stairs, standing while commuting, walking to colleagues rather than emailing them, or having short walks at breaks.

Previous research has linked uninterrupted sitting to increased risks of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, heart disease, and even premature death. 

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