Temporal Dynamics of Sitting Behavior at Work

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Adults with desk based work sit a large part of the working day. Credit: Pixabay/StockSnap

Today’s post comes from Pam ten Broeke, a PhD candidate at the Behavioural Science Institute at Radboud University, Netherlands, describing her recent study, “Temporal dynamics of sitting behavior at work”, that was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Analysing the dynamics of sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit transitions during the workday could improve our understanding of sitting behaviour, and help to develop more effective interventions to change people’s sitting patterns. Whereas previous research on sitting behaviour usually examined total sitting time per person or per day, in our study we took a dynamic approach and observed the timing of individual sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit transitions. 156 UK-based office workers wore activPAL monitors measuring body position for an average of 4 workdays, yielding a total of 30,000 postural shifts. We found that workers were quicker to switch postures later in the workday; although people are more mentally fatigued at the end of the workday, they apparently sit more healthily, and when they are fresh and focused at the beginning of the workday they show less healthy sitting patterns. This finding also suggests that behavioural interventions should be directed toward the beginning of the workday. Workers were quicker to stand up if they had been more active in recent hours, but switching postures was not associated with physical fitness levels.

Whereas sitting is often understood in the same way as exercising, our findings highlight that sitting is differently associated with mental fatigue and recent effort. Adopting a more dynamic approach towards investigating sitting behaviour will enable us to gain insights into the origins of people’s stand-up and sit-down decisions, and examine relations with other psychological processes that occur dynamically during the day, and with changes in the physical environment in which people find themselves.

The full-text research article is available here.

Citation details

Pam ten Broeke, Merlijn Olthof, Debby G. J. Beckers, Nicola D. Hopkins, Lee E. F. Graves, Sophie E. Carter, Madeleine Cochrane, David Gavin, Abigail S. Morris, Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff, Sabine A. E. Geurts, Dick H. J. Thijssen, Erik Bijleveld. Temporal dynamics of sitting behavior at work. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 202001284. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2001284117

About the author

Pam ten Broeke is a PhD candidate at the Behavioural Science Institute at Radboud University. Her project focus is on the psychology of sitting behaviour at work.

Contact information: Pam ten Broeke, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands; tel: +31 24 3616000; e-mail: p.tenbroeke@psych.ru.nl; Twitter: https://twitter.com/broekepam


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