Impact of sit-stand desks at work on energy expenditure and sedentary time: protocol for a feasibility study

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Mantzari, Eleni 
Wijndaele, Katrien 
Brage, Soren 
Griffin, Simon J. 
Marteau, Theresa M. 

Background: Prolonged sitting, an independent risk factor for disease development and premature mortality, is increasing in prevalence in high- and middle-income countries, with no signs of abating. Adults in such countries spend the largest proportion of their day in sedentary behaviour, most of which is accumulated at work. One promising method for reducing workplace sitting is the use of sit-stand desks. However, key uncertainties remain about this intervention, related to the quality of existing studies and a lack of focus on key outcomes, including energy expenditure. We are planning a randomised controlled trial to assess the impact of sit-stand desks at work on energy expenditure and sitting time in the short and longer term. To reduce the uncertainties related to the design of this trial, we propose a preliminary study to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the recruitment, allocation, measurement, retention and intervention procedures.

Methods: Five hundred office-based employees from two companies in Cambridge, UK, will complete a survey to assess their interest in participating in a trial on the use of sit-stand desks at work. The workspaces of 100 of those interested in participating will be assessed for sit-stand desk installation suitability, and 20 participants will be randomised to either the use of sit-stand desks at work for 3 months or a waiting list control group. Energy expenditure and sitting time, measured via Actiheart and activPAL monitors, respectively, as well as cardio-metabolic and anthropometric outcomes and other outcomes relating to health and work performance, will be assessed in 10 randomly selected participants. All participants will also be interviewed about their experience of using the desks and participating in the study.

Discussion: The findings are expected to inform the design of a trial assessing the impact of sit-stand desks at work on short and longer term workplace sitting, taking into account their impact on energy expenditure and the extent to which their use has compensation effects outside the workplace. The findings from such a trial are expected to inform discussions regarding the potential of sit-stand desks at work to alleviate the harm to cardio-metabolic health arising from prolonged sitting.


This is the final version of the article. It first appeared from BioMed Central via

sit-stand desks, standing desks, height-adjustable desks, sitting, standing, energy expenditure, sedentary behaviour
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Pilot and Feasibility Studies
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BioMed Central
This work was supported by a grant from the Department of Health Policy Research Program (Policy Research Unit in Behaviour and Health [PR-UN-0409-10109]), the Medical Research Council (Unit Programme number MC_UU_12015/3) and the British Heart Foundation (Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellowship grant FS/12/58/29709).