Get up and moving

UTAS active work laboratory director Scott Pedersen, psychology student Bridget Russell, health and physical education student Malia Valenciano and health and physical education lecturer Casey Mainsbridge discuss desk options in workplaces. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS
UTAS active work laboratory director Scott Pedersen, psychology student Bridget Russell, health and physical education student Malia Valenciano and health and physical education lecturer Casey Mainsbridge discuss desk options in workplaces. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

UNIVERSITY of Tasmania lecturer Scott Pedersen wants there to be more desk options in workplaces.

Think standing desks, treadmill desks, bike desks and cross trainer desks.

Sitting at a desk has recently been classified by researchers as the new smoking, as they say it is posing a bigger health problem.

Dr Pedersen, who is UTAS’s Active Work Lab director, is undertaking a range of studies with the Department of Health and Human Services and PhD students into how sitting at a desk is affecting not only our health, but productivity and energy levels.

‘‘You don’t get up in the morning and say I’m going to go to work and sit for eight hours, you go to work and the environment you go to work in, is set up that way,’’ he said.

‘‘Our philosophy is we need to change that.’’

Students and staff at the Active Work Lab are working on the idea of hot desks.

They work by all computers being networked, so people can access work anywhere, but you could change from a sitting desk, to a treadmill desk, to a stepper, or fit ball desk, to give you options to move.

Dr Pedersen and Dr Dean Cooley, who also works in the lab, developed a program in 2010 called Exertime. 

The software is used by more than 25,000 government workers across the state and prompts them to get up and move every 45 minutes.

Dr Pedersen said it was something Tasmania Police, Tasmania Fire Service and many other government organisations used.

‘‘The whole idea is for you to think about sitting,’’ he said.

‘‘I think sitting is bad, I don’t think we’re built to sit and there’s a lot of physiological evidence where people talk about poor blood pressure and bad things happening.

‘‘One of the things they say makes you tired with sitting is the limited blood flow to the brain, so you need to get up and go have a coffee or a snack and all of a sudden your blood flow start going again.’’

Studies from a group using Exertime, compared to a group not using the program, have shown there is a significant reduction in blood pressure for those who use it.

UTAS health and physical education lecturer Casey Mainsbridge – who is also undertaking a PhD in the adverse health effects of prolonged occupational sitting – said his research showed those working in an organisational environment who got up and moved every hour, had a significant decrease in self-reported stress.

Bridget Russell, who is studying psychology, uses the Active Work Lab regularly.

She said the treadmill was hard to use at first because the visual field constantly moved.

‘‘But it doesn’t take that long to get used to,’’ Miss Russell said.

‘‘I found that using this kind of equipment, because I use the sit, stand workstation a lot, it actually makes me study for longer.

‘‘When you’re studying for eight or nine hours a day, it’s so boring looking at the same thing. You can get tired and over it, but standing up to me, I’ve been more alert.’’

Dr Pedersen said the next stage of the research was seeing if cognitive decline happens when standing, verse working on a treadmill and verse sitting.

‘‘They’re still finishing their honours projects now, but I can give you a little sneak peak – there’s no decline,’’ he said.

More information about Exertime can be found at www.exertime.com.

Email: mdadson@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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