Cardiometabolic Impact of Changing Sitting, Standing, and Stepping in the Workplace

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According to cross-sectional and acute experimental evidence, reducing sitting time should improve cardio-metabolic health risk biomarkers. Furthermore, the improvements obtained may depend on whether sitting is replaced with standing or ambulatory activities. Based on data from the Stand Up Victoria multi-component workplace intervention, we examined this issue using compositional data analysis — a method that can examine and compare all activity changes simultaneously.


Participants receiving the intervention (n=136 ≥0.6 full-time equivalent desk-based workers, 65% women, mean±SD age=44.6 ±9.1 years from seven worksites) were asked to improve whole-of-day activity by standing up, sitting less and moving more. Their changes in the composition of daily waking hours (activPAL-assessed sitting, standing, stepping) were quantified, then tested for associations with concurrent changes in cardio-metabolic risk (CMR) scores and 14 biomarkers concerning body composition, glucose, insulin and lipid metabolism. Analyses were by mixed models, accounting for clustering (3 months, n=105–120; 12 months, n=80–97).


Sitting reduction was significantly (p<0.05) associated only with lower systolic blood pressure at three months, and with CMR scores, weight, body fat, waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure, and fasting triglycerides, total/HDL cholesterol and insulin at 12 months. Significant differences between standing and stepping were only observed for systolic blood pressure and insulin; both favored stepping. However, replacing sitting with standing was significantly associated only with improvements in CMR scores, while replacing sitting with stepping was significantly associated with CMR scores and six biomarkers.


Improvements in several cardio-metabolic health risk biomarkers were significantly associated with sitting reductions that occurred in a workplace intervention. The greatest degree and/or widest range of cardio-metabolic benefits appeared to occur with long-term changes, and when increasing ambulatory activities.

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