Date: 11 October 2018
NIHR research published in the British Medical Journal has shown that reducing sitting time in the office leads to improvements in work performance and engagement, as well as boosting quality of life and reducing feelings of fatigue and back pain.
The research teams at Leicester and Loughborough universities studied a group of 146 office workers at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust, split randomly into two groups. One group was provided with simple solutions to reduce sitting time at work, including height-adjustable desks, an education seminar and feedback on sitting behaviour - known as the SMArT Work programme. The other group carried out their work as usual.
After 12 months, the group who had been given ways to reduce sitting time were spending on average 83 fewer minutes sitting down per day, compared to the group who were working as normal.
Participants also filled out questionnaires on their job performance, satisfaction, fatigue, wellbeing and sickness absence, with those who received the SMArT Work programme reporting improvements in these measures.
Judy Queally took part in the study, which was funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme and supported by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. She said: “Before I started the study I suffered from a back problem. Even having been to my GP and being sent for a couple of x-rays, I still couldn’t get to the bottom of it. Since being part of the SMArT Work study I have the flexibility to stand whenever I want and I can honestly say I have no back problems at all.”
Dr Fehmidah Munir, Reader in Health Psychology from Loughborough University and the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine East Midlands, said: “Presenteeism, together with absenteeism, is estimated to cost UK employers more than £30 billion annually. Approximately nine million working days are lost to musculoskeletal problems. So, the SMArT Work programme could help employers make headway into these two issues.”
The research team are planning to make the SMArT Work programme resources available online for organisations to access, in the hope that more people can benefit from the programme.
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