Occupational sitting time: employees' perceptions of health risks and intervention strategies

Gilson, Nicholas D.; Burton, Nicola W.; Uffelen, Jannique G. Z. van; Brown, Wendy J.
April 2011
Health Promotion Journal of Australia;Apr2011, Vol. 22 Issue 1, p38
Academic Journal
Issue addressed: There is increasing interest in the potential association between sedentary behaviour and poor health. This study examined office-based employees' perceptions of the health risks associated with prolonged sitting at work, and strategies to interrupt and reduce occupational sitting time. Methods: Four focus groups were conducted with a convenience sample of Australian government personnel (20 women and two men). Open-ended questions concerning health risks and sitting reduction strategies were posed by lead researchers and focus group participants invited to express opinions, viewpoints and experiences. Audio recordings and summary notes of focus group discussions were reviewed by researchers to identify key response themes. Results: Employees associated prolonged occupational sitting with poor health, primarily in terms of musculoskeletal issues, fatigue and de-motivation. This risk was seen as independent of physical activity. Workplace interventions tailored to occupational roles were viewed as important and considered to be the joint responsibility of individuals and organisations. Strategies included workload planning (interspersing sedentary and non-sedentary tasks), environmental change (e.g. stairwell access, printers away from desks), work tasks on the move (e.g. walking meetings) and purposive physical activity (e.g. periodic breaks, exercise/walking groups). The perception that these strategies would compromise productivity was identified as the primary barrier to implementation; team leaders were subsequently considered vital in enabling integration and acceptance of strategies into everyday workplace practices. Conclusions: Prolonged occupational sitting was perceived as detrimental to health. Suggested strategies targeted individuals, workplaces, organisations and environments.


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