A Brief Perspective on Interventions to Reduce Sedentary Work Behaviors

This week on the blog, I would like to pick up on the topic of movement and sitting at work. We discussed this in my last post (https://www.ewiworks.com/blog/2014/01/will-sit-stand-desks-really-increase-your-activity-levels-at-work/) with respect to the limited impact that standing desks have on decreasing sedentary work time. A recent set of review articles have noted that occupational sedentary behaviors, on their own, do not have a strong association with cardiovascular disease (1-4), while increased sitting and a lack of physical activity during leisure time does have an association (3-6). However, promotion of movement at the workplace seems to provide an additional benefit when the individual is active outside of his/her employment (1, 3). Therefore, there are benefits to developing movement strategies during the workday, provided employees also take part in physical activity outside the workplace.

This is an interesting concept for ergonomists and human factors specialists. When redesigning offices and workspaces, are there ways we can promote more movement? Placing copiers and printing devices in a location that requires walking is one option. In addition, employees could hold phone conversations with mobile devices or wireless headsets to allow displacement during the discussion. Rethinking the flow of documents and tasks within a workplace to improve mobility might also be an answer.

Treadmill and cycling desks are often pointed out as a method to increase movement during the day. But, there has been limited research on the benefit and potential impact these devices actually produce.

It seems that a logical strategy would be integration of health promotion strategies with ergonomic redesign. Changes to office layout and work organization can produce changes in movement, but the initiative must also come from employees. Morning and lunch break exercise groups can provide a tangible benefit, for example. It seems increasingly likely the occupational wellness and workplace physical activity programs will need to become part of a larger ergonomics program moving forward.

At EWI Works, we are reviewing the base of evidence related to “sitting disease” and workplace sedentary behaviors, and the potential impact alternative workstations and various work strategies hold. We hope to have a full report available in the near future.


1. Stamatakis E, Chau JY, Pedisic Z, Bauman A, Macniven R, Coombs N, et al. Are Sitting Occupations Associated with Increased All-Cause, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality Risk? A Pooled Analysis of Seven British Population Cohorts. Plos One. 2013;8(9).

2. Grontved A, Hu FB. Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-Cause Mortality A Meta-analysis. Jama-Journal of the American Medical Association. 2011;305(23):2448-55.

3. Saidj M, Jorgensen T, Jacobsen RK, Linneberg A, Aadahl M. Separate and Joint Associations of Occupational and Leisure-Time Sitting with Cardio-Metabolic Risk Factors in Working Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study. Plos One. 2013;8(8).

4. van Uffelen JGZ, Wong J, Chau JY, van der Ploeg HP, Riphagen I, Gilson ND, et al. Occupational Sitting and Health Risks A Systematic Review. Am J Prev Med. 2010;39(4):379-88.

5. Wilmot EG, Edwardson CL, Achana FA, Davies MJ, Gorely T, Gray LJ, et al. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2012;55(11):2895-905.

6. Chau JY, van der Ploeg HP, Merom D, Chey T, Bauman AE. Cross-sectional associations between occupational and leisure-time sitting, physical activity and obesity in working adults. Preventive Medicine. 2012;54(3-4):195-200.