Occup Environ Med 71:765-771 doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102348
  • Workplace
  • Original article

Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers

  1. David W Dunstan1,6,8,9
  1. 1Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Department of Physiology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  5. 5Department of Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
  6. 6The University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Cancer Prevention Research Centre, Queensland, Australia
  7. 7School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  8. 8Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Victoria, Australia
  9. 9School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alicia A Thorp, Neurovascular Hypertension and Kidney Disease Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia; Alicia.Thorp{at}
  • Received 22 May 2014
  • Revised 22 July 2014
  • Accepted 13 August 2014
  • Published Online First 28 August 2014


Objectives To examine whether the introduction of intermittent standing bouts during the workday using a height-adjustable workstation can improve subjective levels of fatigue, musculoskeletal discomfort and work productivity relative to seated work.

Methods Overweight/obese office workers (n=23; age 48.2±7.9 years, body mass index 29.6±4 kg/m2) undertook two, 5-day experimental conditions in an equal, randomised (1:1) order. In a simulated office environment, participants performed their usual occupational tasks for 8 h/day in a: seated work posture (SIT condition); or interchanging between a standing and seated work posture every 30 min using an electric, height-adjustable workstation (STAND-SIT condition). Self-administered questionnaires measuring fatigue, musculoskeletal discomfort and work productivity were performed on day 5 of each experimental condition.

Results Participants’ total fatigue score was significantly higher during the SIT condition (mean 67.8 (95% CI 58.8 to 76.7)) compared with the STAND-SIT condition (52.7 (43.8 to 61.5); p<0.001). Lower back musculoskeletal discomfort was significantly reduced during the STAND-SIT condition compared with the SIT condition (31.8% reduction; p=0.03). Despite concentration/focus being significantly higher during the SIT condition (p=0.006), there was a trend towards improved overall work productivity in favour of the STAND-SIT condition (p=0.053).

Conclusions Transitioning from a seated to a standing work posture every 30 min across the workday, relative to seated work, led to a significant reduction in fatigue levels and lower back discomfort in overweight/obese office workers, while maintaining work productivity. Future investigations should be directed at understanding whether sustained use of height-adjustable workstations promote concentration and productivity at work.

Trial Registration Number ACTRN12611000632998.

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