Work-from-homes can ‘stand up’ to COVID

Western researchers Madison Hiemstra and Kirsten Dillon are leading a study into best strategies for getting people who work from home to move more often. Sophisticated trackers log when participants sit, stand, lie down and move around.

Think for a minute about how long you’ve been sitting. How long you’ve been without a break as you’ve scrolled through email and tip-tapped on your computer.

How many workday hours do you sit, just sit?

There’s a good chance you sit a lot if you’re an office worker, and an even better chance you’ve been sitting a whole lot more if you’ve been working from home during the pandemic, says  Kirsten Dillon, a doctoral student in kinesiology.

Dillon and kinesiology master’s student Madison Hiemstra are leading a new study to determine how adults working at home full time can change their sedentary habits and ultimately improve their productivity and over-all health.

“When they’re in the office, people will go out for lunch or they walk to work or even walk to their car, whereas people working from home will get up and walk to the kitchen for a coffee and that’s about it,” Dillon said.

Half of the study’s 145 participants will choose their own get-moving motivations, while the other half will be assigned specific strategies.

(Some spaces in the study are still open for London-area participants by contacting kdillon9@uwo.ca.)

activPAL

ActivPAL devices log times when participants sit, stand, lie down and move around.

Activity levels will be continuously recorded with an activPAL, a monitor that detects when and how long the wearer is sitting, standing, lying down or exercising.

Just as important, participants will log their feelings of well-being and productivity during that time.

Dillon admits she too would sit for hours working if she didn’t jog her memory with a couple of specific strategies.

One is to do a lap around her kitchen after every research article she reads. Another is to place sticky notes every 15 pages or so in her notes, as a reminder to take stretch breaks.

“We know sitting for long periods of time has been linked to poor long-term outcomes like diabetes, obesity and early death,” Dillon said.

By contrast, moving around frequently can improve energy levels, heart health, circulation and mental health.

And while office workers might think they’re getting more done by keeping their heads down and slogging away for uninterrupted hours, research shows people who take a walking break and then resume work are actually more productive.

“Our main objective is to measure sitting time and strategies to break up sitting time, and hopefully that results in improved mental health and productivity and a lasting change in habits,” Dillon said.

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Related:

Sitting more during COVID-19 hurting your health, June 2020

Findings urge you to stand up for a better life, January 2018