An updated Cochrane Review has examined the impact of workplace interventions to reduce sitting. From the plain language summary, available via the Cochrane Library.
Why is the amount of time spent sitting at work important?
Physical inactivity at work, particularly sitting has increased in recent years. Long periods of sitting increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, and overall mortality. It is unclear whether interventions that aim to reduce sitting at workplaces are effective at reducing the amount of time spent sitting.
The purpose of this review
We wanted to find out the effects of interventions aimed at reducing sitting time at work. We searched the literature in various databases up to 2 June 2015.
What trials did the review find?
We found twenty studies with a total of 2174 participants from high income nations. Nine studies evaluated physical changes in the workplace, four evaluated changes in workplace policy, seven studies evaluated information and counselling interventions and one study evaluated both physical workplace changes and information and counselling components.
Effect of sit-stand desks
Sit-stand desks alone decreased workplace sitting with about half an hour to two hours per day. When combined with information and counselling sit-stand desks reduced sitting at work in the same range. Sit-stand desks also reduced total sitting time (both at work and outside work) and the duration of sitting episodes that last 30 minutes or longer.
Effect of active workstations
Treadmill desks combined with counselling reduced sitting time at work compared to no intervention. Pedalling workstations combined with information did not reduce sitting at work compared to information alone.
Effect of walking during breaks
The introduction of walking during breaks in two studies with 443 participants did not change sitting time.
Effect of information and counselling
In two studies counselling decreased sitting time with 28 minutes and in another study mindfulness training did not have any effect on sitting at work. There was no considerable increase in work engagement with counselling.
Computer prompting software did not reduce sitting time in two studies. In another study computer prompts reduced sitting time with 55 minutes compared to no intervention. One study found that prompts to stand reduced sitting 14 minutes more than prompts to step. Computer prompts did not change the number of sitting episodes that last 30 minutes or longer.
Interventions from multiple categories
When multiple categories of interventions were combined to decrease sitting, there was reduction in workplace sitting time at 12 weeks’ and six months’ follow-up but there was no considerable difference between intervention and control group at 12 months’ follow-up.
The quality of evidence was very low to low for most interventions mainly because studies were very poorly designed and because they had very few participants. We conclude that at present there is very low quality evidence that sit-stand desks can reduce sitting at work at the short term. There is no evidence for other types of interventions. We need research to assess the effectiveness of different types of interventions for decreasing sitting at workplaces in the long term.
The interesting aspect of this review is that it shows that the research methods that are currently in place are not able to give a clear indication of the efficiency of each mode of intervention. If a clearer picture of the effectiveness of the various factors that lead to a more intelligent human behavior is to arrise, then perhaps intelligent and relational modes of intervention could be measured instead of the ones currently in place.