Mounds of literature have been written about the ill effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Possible solutions—like standing desks, computer prompts and educational campaigns designed to discourage sitting—have increased in popularity and been implemented in offices to encourage employees to stand more. But are these approaches effective? Researchers wanted to find out.

The aim of their study was to review a variety of workplace options to determine if any of them reduced daily sitting time. The researchers evaluated 20 studies that included 2,180 individuals. Interventions included sit-stand desks; active workstations incorporating either treadmill desks or pedal stations; walking during breaks; information and counseling; computer prompts; or some combination of these.

The research review, published online by the Cochrane Library in March (doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010912.pub3), produced the following data:

  • Sit-stand desks decreased sitting time by 30 minutes to 2 hours per day. Adding counseling to the equation produced the same results.
  • Treadmill desks and counseling reduced sitting time by about 30 minutes compared with no intervention. Pedal stations did not affect sitting time.
  • Counseling alone was associated with about 30 minutes less time seated. Mindfulness training was ineffective.
  • Studies that used computer prompts achieved mixed results. Some showed no decrease in sitting time, while one showed a 55-minute reduction compared with no intervention.

While these findings are promising, the researchers stated that the effectiveness of any of these interventions remains to be seen.

“At present there is very low to low quality evidence that sit-stand desks may decrease workplace sitting between thirty minutes to two hours per day without having adverse effects at the short or medium term,” they explained. “There is no evidence on the effects in the long term. There were no considerable or inconsistent effects of other interventions such as changing work organization or information and counseling.”