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TWH and the Sedentary Worker

Posted By Darrell Smith, Friday, June 10, 2016

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) sponsors the Total Worker Health Initiative (TWH), which has called for programs that integrate both health promotion and health protection elements. In what way does this approach yield higher levels of benefit and success?

A recent study evaluated such an approach on (1)  occupational sedentary/physical activity behaviors, (2) cardiometabolic disease biomarkers, (3) musculoskeletal discomfort, and (4) work productivity. The study examined overweight/obese adults who work at desk jobs. Participants were divided into two groups. The first group only received an ergonomic workstation optimization and three emails per week promoting rest breaks and posture corrections. The second group received the same interventions as the first group, but in addition were given access to a seated activity permissive workstation (in this case a portable seated elliptical machine under their desk). 

Results: The second group - those with access to an activity - increased occupational light physical activity over the first group and voluntarily used the activity permissive workstations for 50 minutes per work day. Significant associations were observed between activity permissive workstation adherence and improvements in several cardiometabolic biomarkers (weight, total fat mass, resting heart rate, body fat percentage) and work productivity outcomes (concentration at work, days missed because of health problems).”

Conclusion: Offering workers not only proper structural design and task information, but also engaging the third element of ergonomics, human movement, produced high levels of productivity and decreased health risk factors for both acute and chronic injury and disease.

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