A research published in the open access journal BMC Research Notes suggests that desk-based workers prefer spending less time sitting down and more time walking or doing physical activity as part of their working day.
The researchers at the German Sport University Cologne said health promotion activities to reduce sitting time in the workplace should not only give options for employees to stand up more, but also offer opportunities for walking.
“To our knowledge this is the first study to investigate how long desk-based workers actually want to sit, stand, walk and be physically active. So far, plans to increase physical activity in the workplace primarily focus on health outcomes without asking the target group what they prefer. Interventions to reduce sitting time may need to include more options for walking rather than only for standing,” said Dr. Birgit Sperlich, lead author of the study.
Participants said they want to spend 53.8% of their working day sitting down, 15.8% standing, 22.8% walking, and 7.7% doing physically demanding tasks. On average, employees wanted to spend an additional 46 minutes per eight-hour working day walking and an additional 26 minutes per eight-hour working day standing.
There were 614 respondents (desk-based workers) across Germany. Researchers interviewed them by phone and asked about their actual and desired levels of sitting, standing, walking and doing physically demanding tasks at work. Researchers found that the more hours they spent working, the greater the differences between the actual time they spent sitting down and the time they wanted to spend sitting down. This indicates that the longer an employee spends working, the less time they want to spend sitting down.
The authors noted that the findings are based on self-reported data and employees may not have correctly estimated the 73.0% of time they reported to spend sitting during working hours and that the study did not assess pre-existing health conditions that could influence desired sitting time which would need to be addressed in future studies. Still, the findings suggest that health promotion activities to reduce sitting time at work are supported by desk-based workers.
“Our results lend some support to the recommended reduction of sitting time to 50% of the work day which seems feasible in light of workers’ preferences for sitting, standing and walking that we have identified. Alternatively, these results may reflect respondents’ awareness of recent guidance about occupational sitting time. Either way, interventions that take into account workers’ personal preferences for sitting, walking and physical activity could help reduce the risk for various negative health outcomes.”