A research group has recently published two meta-analyses – one on the effects of active workstations on reducing work sedentary time, and one examining the effectiveness of multi-component interventions to reduce workplace sedentary behaviour. Meta-analyses combine the results from multiple studies, and thus can provide higher quality evidence than a single study. They can also provide information on how consistent the effect of an intervention is when tested in different populations and different settings.
Active workstations include sit-stand desks, under-desk cycles and treadmill desks. The first review examined the impact of different types of active workstation interventions on work-specific sedentary time. Concomitant strategies, such as prompting or individual support as well as multicomponent approaches, were also considered. A total of 23 eligible studies with 1428 office workers were included in the review. The meta-analysis showed that compared to a typical desk (i.e., a non-active one), sit-stand workstations either by themselves, or when used as part of a multi-component intervention or with promotion (e.g., prompts) were effective at reducing work sedentary time in office workers, as were treadmill workstations when used with promotion. Notably, multicomponent interventions and active workstations plus promotion showed greater effectiveness than active workstations alone – a finding consistent with previous research.
The second review unpacked these multi-component interventions a bit more to examine the effectiveness of multicomponent interventions on work sedentary time. They also did subgroup analyses on sit-stand workstations, feedback, and prompts to examine the importance of these components. The review included 11 randomised controlled trials, involving 1894 participants. Similar to the first review, the meta-analysis showed that compared with no intervention, multi-component intervention significantly reduced occupational sitting time by an average of -52 minutes per 8 hour workday (95% CI -73 to -31, p<0.001). In the subgroup analysis, the multicomponent interventions that included installation of sit-stand workstations showed better effects for reducing occupational sitting time (with a mean difference of -73 minutes per 8 hour workday, 95% CI -93 to -51) compared to multicomponent interventions that did not include a sit-stand desk.
So what do these two studies tell us? Well, they provide further evidence that it is possible to reduce occupational sedentary time. They also highlight the importance of using a multi-component approach – i.e., one that takes into account the multiple levels of influence on behaviour. Installation of a sit-stand desk for individuals can be effective – but particularly so if the installation is accompanied by organisational and cultural support for the change as well as prompting and reminding to break the habit. The second review also highlighted the need for more understanding of the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of low cost/no cost approaches to reducing prolonged sedentary time. The evaluation of BeUpstanding will help to contribute to this evidence base.
- Zhou, L., Deng, X., Xu, M. et al. The effects of active workstations on reducing work-specific sedentary time in office workers: a network meta-analysis of 23 randomized controlled trials. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 20, 92 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-023-01467-5
- Zhou L, Deng X, Guo K, Hou L, Hui X, Wu Y, Xu M, Wang Y, Liang S, Yang K, Li X. Effectiveness of Multicomponent Interventions in Office-Based Workers to Mitigate Occupational Sedentary Behavior: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. JMIR Public Health Surveill 2023;9:e44745. OI: 10.2196/44745