Standing desks improve productivity and health but moving is key
To sit or not to sit? The global debate surrounding sitting or standing at work is ongoing, but according to a Kiwi physiotherapist just moving is key.
Jane Pierce, who works with rehabilitation and vocational company Work Recovery, said the key to good office health was to encouraged staff to move.
Pierce, who conducted a 12 week study in Hawke's Bay for her masters thesis on the topic, gave a presentation at The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand conference in Wellington on Friday, along with professor of ergonomics, Stephen Legg.
Prolonged sitting was linked to serious health effects such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and possible cancer.
However, there had been a lot of scaremongering about the dangers of sitting all day, mostly on social media, Pierce said.
"There are benefits to standing. But there are also issues to prolonged standing."
More than half of a working person's day is spent in a sedentary position, so the office had been identified as place for potential change by using adjustable height desks.
Her 2013 research showed that light physical activity increased with the allocation of an adjustable desk and there were no reports of tiredness as a result.
There were some misconceptions surrounding a sit and stand desk and questions around if they really worked, she said.
"What we know is that prolonged postures need to be changed and staff need to move around."
There were also conflicting recommendations about how long to stand for (based on musculoskeletal metabolic benefits) but new research was underway in Melbourne.
Recent recommendations, for predominantly desk based occupations, varied between one and four hours in a day.
Standing may not be for everyone and businesses may want to do some investigation before investing in desks, Pierce said.
"There are some people who do not want to stand. Some workplaces have sloths that will not make the effort to use standing desks, so it would be a waste of money."
The biggest barrier to change was management concern about productivity, but some studies had shown standing desks led to a 46 per cent increase in productivity, she said.
Most research had been conducted on office workers, but other sedentary occupations needed to be considered in further research, Pierce said.
Standing recommendations for desk-based occupations:
About two hours, increasing to four hours a day of standing as well as light activity during working hours.
Regularly break seated work with standing work:
Take standing or walking breaks.
Use adjustable height desks.
Sedentary task should be no longer than 20-30 minutes.
Use task variation to interrupt prolonged sitting such as standing to read a document, standing in meetings, walking at lunch time, standing on public transport while commuting or stand to talk on the phone.