Get active at your desk for both health and productivity


Standing, sitting or walking at an ‘active workstation’ not only enhances brainpower, but also counteracts the ill effects of sitting all the time in the office. — dpa

So-called “active workstations” not only help desk-bound staff get some exercise, but also enhance brainpower, and potentially, productivity, according to doctors at the United States-based Mayo Clinic.

Putting a walking pad, bike or stepper in front of a computer does not diminish “job performance”, but could help make desk jockeys more effective.

And equally importantly, diluting the ill effects of being stuck at a desk all day – the “new smoking”, according to preventive cardiologist Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez.

“When participants used the active workstations, their brain function either improved or stayed the same,” according to him and his fellow researchers.

They found that the participants had “improved reasoning scores when standing, stepping and walking, as compared with sitting”.

Office workers have long had to figure out when and how to fit in exercise around family commitments and rush-hour commutes – be that by using a lunch hour to go for a run or dash to a nearby gym, or by leaving it all until Saturday and Sunday – a so-called “weekend warrior”.

“Given the time constraints of incorporating physical activity into daily schedules, and the high likelihood of sitting during office work, this environment may serve as a potentially feasible setting for interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour,” the researchers said in their paper published by the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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The transition in recent decades from physical to sedentary work has been widely linked, along with increasing consumption of processed food, to growing incidences of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, or so-called “lifestyle diseases”.

“We would do well to consider an active workstation in the prescription for prevention and treatment of conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Dr Lopez-Jimenez.

One downside was that while typing accuracy remained the same, speed was reduced, according to the team, which analysed the participants’ “neurocognitive function” using 11 assessments of reasoning, short-term memory, concentration and motor skills. – dpa

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