Sit-stand combo helps prevent work-related health issues: expert

Canadian Chiropractor staff
June 30, 2016
Written by Canadian Chiropractor staff
To reduce the health and injury risks of prolonged sitting, workers should change postures often and aim to stand for an equal amount of time that they spend sitting over the course of a work day.

That was Dr. Jack Callaghan's message in a keynote address before an audience of about 400 researchers and clinicians at the recent 9th International Scientific Conference on the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (PREMUS 2016).

Although even a small decrease in sitting time has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort, from an overall health perspective, workers should aim for a one-to-one ratio of standing time and sitting time, said Callaghan, who is a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo.

A key consideration is the frequency with which workers change positions, he noted. Changing positions often, even if total sitting time is not reduced, can result in health benefits, including reduced low back pain.

"With the attention given to sitting related to death, there has been a knee-jerk reaction to demonize sitting and have people stand all of the time. However, standing all the time also carries health risks, and what is needed to reduce these risks is work combining sitting and standing in an appropriate and individualized fashion," said Callaghan, who also holds a Canada research chair in spine biomechanics and injury prevention.

He added that sit-stand workstations that allow workers to periodically alternate between sitting and standing positions may mitigate work-related health issues, provided that users are given ergonomic training along with the equipment.

PREMUS, held every three years since 1992, is the primary conference of the Musculoskeletal Disorders Scientific Community of the International Commission of Occupational Health. PREMUS 2016 was held from June 20 to 23 at Toronto's Allstream Centre. This year's event was hosted by the Institute for Work & Health, an independent, not-for-profit research organization that aims to protect and improve the health of working people.

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