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Effective strategies to beat 'chair disease'

03 February, 2014

It takes more than stand-up work stations for office staff to combat "chair disease" from sitting too long, a new study has found.

A study from The University of Queensland, led by researcher Maike Neuhaus, found that a multicomponent intervention program was far more effective in getting office staff to stand up, than stand-up work stations alone.

"Prolonged sitting increases the risks of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and musculoskeletal symptoms, and some cancers," Neuhaus said.

The study evaluated two different strategies to help desk-based office workers to stand up, sit less, and move more, and found that a multicomponent intervention was the key to success.

"Because so little is known about best-practice approaches, we compared two different interventions against a control group.

"One group of participants was provided height-adjustable workstations while the second group was provided the same workstations, but with additional individual and workplace support strategies," she said.

"The strategies included management consultations, worker education on the dangers of prolonged sitting, individual health coaching, and brainstorming to identify opportunities to sit less, such as standing meetings or visiting colleagues instead of emailing them."

Neuhaus said staff who received the multicomponent intervention had a substantially greater reduction in sitting time.

"This is important information for organisations keen to improve the health of employees, and indicates that changing sitting habits may not be as simple as providing new desks," Neuhaus said.

"Sitting habits are ingrained in office routines and we found that workers acting alone may feel awkward when standing during meetings, or at their desk.

"Workplace advocates or champions can be useful to remind others of the importance of regular postural changes and to ensure management and colleagues are supportive of standing and moving around."

The research team is conducting further research to determine if some intervention elements are more important than others.

The Cancer Prevention Research Centre has established a consultancy service to provide advice, auditing and evaluation expertise for workplaces keen to adopt a standing culture for improved employee health and productivity.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in January 2014.

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Celia Sexton | Monday, February 10, 2014, 11:10 PM
The article is illustrated with a woman standing, but do not show the shoes. Women standing for considerable periods wearing high heeled shoes are subject to many physical stresses including distortion of the feet and the spinal column. As a relatively short woman, I have always been aware that standing in a meeting puts me at a greater disadvantage relative to taller men than sitting with the same group. More standing meetings increase the pressure to wear even higher heels with greater physical stressors. It is unlikely that these difficulties would be brought up at a work meeting, as social pressures are not necessarily well understood, and so many women would fear being seen as irrational to bring up "fashion" as a serious workplace matter.
ceirano | Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 5:57 PM
Dear Celia. Occupation, Health & Safety should fix this. Wear flat shoes & push your way to the front if possible. I'm a short man & that is the one way that gets me seen & heard. Keep trying.