Sedentary desk jockeys, stand up for your health: Western University study

January 04, 2018

Sit up, stand up, repeat often. Sedentary people can put their prolonged chair-sitting days behind them with a few simple, strategic behavioural changes, says a new study by researchers at Western University in London, Canada.

"Even if we exercise regularly, most of us sit or recline for an average of 11 hours a day," said Wuyou (Yoah) Sui, a PhD student in the Department of Kinesiology at Western. "Our bodies just aren't designed to function well with such low levels of activity --we all have to move more often than we do, or endure a variety of chronic health issues."

Prolonged sitting increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, several recent studies show. But creating new, healthier habits can be challenging for people who work long hours at their desks.

In a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being, Sui and co-author Kinesiology Prof. Harry Prapavessis describe how students modified their sedentary behaviour through a structured, six-week process that has also had success in smoking cessation and seatbelt compliance. For these Western students, the process had students choose their best strategies to take more frequent breaks, which for some of them included setting timers and phone reminders. They also had short check-in sessions three weeks into the study.

After six weeks, the students had turned these cues into habits: they took breaks, on average, once an hour in comparison to their previous 90-minute sitting sessions. Even two weeks later, they continued to shave time from their sitting durations. By contrast, a control group showed no improvement in its sitting habits.

"It's human nature to stumble when trying to add new activities to a busy day, which is why diets and exercise resolutions sometimes fall flat," said Sui. "This study shows we can combat 'occupational sitting' not by adding a new activity but by sliding a substitute regimen into the place of an existing one."

For students or office desk jockeys, those changes could include standing during phone calls; making a few short trips to the water fountain instead of one lingering visit; and replacing departmental email conversation with a walk-and-talk.

"We can build into our day some simple strategies to bring us out of our chairs and off our couches," said Prapavessis, who is director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Lab at Westerns' School of Kinesiology. "It may or may not make us more productive -- we suspect it does, but the jury is still out on that one - but we know the health impact of getting to our feet is a positive one."

Sui also outlined details of his study during a recent Western Three-Minute Thesis video competition for graduate students. That talk can be viewed here.
(Pronouncer tip: Yoah Sui's name is pronounced YO'-ah Sway)

Downloadable images and other media are available at Western's media relations site.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and

ABOUT WESTERN: Western University delivers an academic experience second to none. Since 1878, The Western Experience has combined academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities. Our research excellence expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western attracts individuals who have a broad worldview and who seek to study, influence and lead in the international community.

University of Western Ontario

Related Sedentary Behaviour Articles from Brightsurf:

Infection by parasites disturbs flight behaviour in shoals of fish
Shoal behaviour in fish is an important strategy for them to safeguard their survival.

The influence of social norms and behaviour on energy use
People tend to conform to what others do and what others regard as right.

Brainstem neurons control both behaviour and misbehaviour
A recent study at the University of Helsinki reveals how gene control mechanisms define the identity of developing neurons in the brainstem.

Pain 'catastrophizing' may lead to little exercise, more time sedentary
Chronic pain affects the majority of older adults in the US, and getting enough exercise plays a key role in pain management.

Study shows sedentary behavior independently predicts cancer mortality
In the first study to look at objective measures of sedentary behavior and cancer mortality, researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that greater inactivity was independently associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer.

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is common, with great variance between breeds
All dog breeds have unwanted behaviour, such as noise sensitivity, aggressiveness and separation anxiety, but differences in frequency between breeds are great.

New method improves measurement of animal behaviour using deep learning
Konstanz researchers develop deep learning toolkit for high-speed measurement of body posture in animals.

More time spent standing helps combat effects of sedentary lifestyle
A study conducted by scientists from the University of Granada and published in the journal PLOS ONE recommends that people spend more time standing, to increase energy expenditure and thus avoid the negative health problems associated with a sedentary li

Prenatal parental stress linked to behaviour problems in toddlers
Expectant parents' emotional struggles predict emotional and behavioural problems in 2-year-olds, new research shows.

Sedentary time increases after retirement -- especially in women
The FIREA study, conducted at the University of Turku (Finland), revealed that the amount of sitting time increased in women after the transition to retirement.

Read More: Sedentary Behaviour News and Sedentary Behaviour Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to