Literature Review: Health Impacts of Sedentary Behavior in the Workplace

Given what we know about the perils of prolonged sitting to health (and, conversely, the benefits of physical movement to creativity, memory, cognition, and mental health), we aim in this literature review to contextualize the current science regarding sedentary behavior within the specific context of knowledge workers in office settings. 
In the 20th century,  there was a major shift in the workforce: physically active tasks were significantly reduced. In highly industrialized countries like the USA and UK, this reduction could be as large as 40% by 2020.  
There is a growing interest in the impact of sedentary behaviors (SB) in health and productivity. SB has been proposed as a factor that affects human physiology through different pathways than moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). It has been hypothesized that the [potential] detrimental effects of SB cannot be undone with just more MVPA. 
Sedentary behaviors are any waking behaviors with an energy expenditure of 1.5 metabolic equivalents or less, done sitting, reclining or lying. A metabolic equivalent is a unit to measure energy expenditure, based on the amount of oxygen that an average person requires while sitting straight and not doing anything else.  As one can see, a person can be both physically active and have high levels of sedentary behaviors.
This project has three main objectives:  
  • To  evaluate the  physiological consequences of SB;
  • To  explore  potential mechanisms  to ameliorate or reverse such effects;  and
  • To develop a typology to implement such mechanisms in workplaces

To that end, we work closely with world-class researchers, both members of the center and external advisors.


Students who have worked with us on this project include:

Natalie Mutch