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Standing Desks May Be Totally Pointless

MarketWatch (03/20/16) Burke, Kathleen

Sitting for extended periods has been found to be detrimental to health, causing such chronic conditions as heart disease and diabetes over time. To combat this, more and more companies have been spending big on desks that allow workers to have the option to stand or sit, as well as health education programs. To date, there has been little proof that these initiatives have been effective at increasing daily mobility. The research, published last week by the Cochrane Work Group, surveyed past studies on workplace interventions aimed at reducing time spent sitting -- from the introduction of sit-stand desks to complete workplace rearrangements. Evidence of increased employee mobility from these and other changes was either weak or inconclusive, the group reported in the study.

With more occupations requiring employees to sit in front of computer screens and rising obesity and heart disease rates, employers have been looking for ways to combat the trend. The main reason these methods have not been effective is because they aren't combined with health education or training, reports Dr. Alan Hedge, an environmental analysis professor at Cornell University. "A lot of companies make the mistake of, when they get the equipment, they teach people how to use it, but not why they're using it," Hedge explains. "The key to any behavioral change is to get people to understand why it's important." Hedge says office spaces designed to keep people moving throughout the day are the most beneficial to long-term health. Changes like making the stairs more prominent than the elevator, creating mobile work stations, and moving trash cans away from desk areas can significantly improve employee health and prevent chronic disease caused by over-sitting. For sit-stand desk areas, Hedge believes the best routine is to cycle through 20 minutes of sitting, eight minutes of standing, and a couple minutes of walking every half-hour. In a recent survey of office buildings in Australia, Hedge says occupants in a building where the stairs were easier to access than the elevator walked about 1,400 steps a day more than average workers, adding up to an additional mile walked each week.

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