Sit to stand workstations are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Increasingly they are being recommended for people with sedentary (sitting) roles, but are they worth the extra investment?

We know that there are risks associated with sedentary behaviour including an increased risk of negative health outcomes such as Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. Long term public health initiatives have worked towards encouraging increased physical activity to offset our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

A surprising finding in more recent research is that the risks associated with sedentary behaviour are independent of physical activity. Put simply, if you meet you daily exercise requirements you can still have risk factors associated with long periods of sitting. If you have an office job, it is not enough to go out and exercise away from work. We need to get moving more during the day as well.

Current recommendations from Public Health England suggest that workers in sedentary occupations should move towards 2 hours of movement during an 8-hour workday initially, building up to 4 hours in the long term. The first of these targets is reasonably easy to achieve for many people. Studies show varied amounts depending on industry and role, but we can state that on average a sedentary worker will spend around 1.5 hours moving during a typical work day. Building in an extra 30 minutes can be a simple as taking the stairs, moving to a colleague’s desk to talk instead of emailing, or just going for a short walk in your break. Adding another 2 hours on top of this can be more challenging, however.

Sit to stand workstations have been shown to be effective in reduction of time spent sitting at work. Research also shows a related improvement in perceived wellbeing and reduction in pain. Importantly for employers, there is no reduction in productivity.

As with everything there is a down-side. Extended periods of time standing brings its own array of health problems including the potential for back pain, leg pain and venous disorders. Ultimately you can have too much of a good thing.

In summary, Sit to Stand Workstations are one of many tools that can be used to improve health in the Workplace. Current recommendations support their introduction, but it should be noted that training in the correct use and, ultimately, compliance is critical to the success of implementation. Sit to Stand Workstations should be introduced in partnership with an experienced provider and Human Resources support.

Rohan Davies has 20 years experience as a Clinical Physiotherapist and is a Member of the Occupational Health Group of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. If you would like further information on implementing Sit to Stand Workstations in your business or to discuss any other Workplace Health issues please call 3350 2596 to arrange an obligation free meeting.

*Literature References available