Cardiff School of Sport academics and the DVLA drive forward research into standing at work

​​​25/10/2016

​Cardiff Met's Dr Rich Neil (right) talks to DVLA employee Christopher Milton at his sit-to-stand desk. ​

Members of the Cardiff Met research team (l to r) Tony Dawkins, Tom Bridge, Dr Rich Neil, Lizzie Parker, Katy Scorer and Charlotte Williams.

Researchers at Cardiff Met are working with the DVLA to investigate the health and wellbeing benefits of standing at work.

Supported by Ergotron, a global leader in delivering adjustable technological furniture for the office and in education, Cardiff School of Sport’s Dr Rich Neil, Dr Karianne Backx and team have given adjustable sit-to-stand desks to 28 members of contact centre staff over a six month period – allowing workers to choose whether to sit or stand whilst in the office.

This is the first study of its kind with a government higher executive agency in the UK and it sees Drs Neil and Backx measuring physiological and psychological markers to understand how standing at work for a minimum of two hours a day influences health and wellbeing. 

The academics are looking in detail at factors such as cardiovascular function, body fat composition, physical activity levels and psychological well-being. Blood tests also provide an insight into other measurements including pulse waves, arterial stiffness, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which, combined can provide an indication of a participant’s cardiometabolic risk profile. The project, which is funded by Cardiff School of Sport (CSS) and Ergotron, follows on from an initial health and wellbeing audit in the DVLA which was led by CSS PhD student, Dr Helen McFarlane.

Dr Rich Neil, who is also lead sport psychologist for the Golf Union of Wales and performance psychologist for the WRU U20s said: “A variety of research projects have shown that British people sit, on average, for about eight to nine hours each day which can increase a person’s risk of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

“Cardiff School of Sport has been working with the DVLA for over five years, with projects focused on health and wellbeing, leadership and values development. This project therefore builds on a solid relationship with the agency and we hope to develop our understanding of the benefits of standing at work.”

Karianne Backx, who is also Director of the Cardiff Centre for Exercise & Health, said: “Whilst the benefits of increased workplace activity have been demonstrated, the adopted interventions have been short term with the longer-term health, wellbeing and productivity benefits yet to be fully investigated.

“This study will therefore look at longer-term health, wellbeing and productivity benefits of standing whilst at work with the data potentially informing larger initiatives and health guidelines at the DVLA.”

Thirty-three-year-old Christopher Milton, from Aberdare, is one of the DVLA employees taking part in the research, and said: “I tend to get up and move around anyway and was happy to start taking part in the trial six months ago. I can be sat down for just over two hours at a time before taking a break, so this definitely feels like it has made a difference.

“I have previously done lots of construction work so have been on my feet a lot at work and have definitely noticed a difference in my posture and lower back pain since starting this job and have found myself putting on weight, although I do love it here.

“The new desk has made me more active. It’s a great idea.”

Christopher’s colleague, James Hanney, 30, from Morriston has been an Administrative Officer at the DVLA for four years and added: “It has been really interesting keeping a diary to monitor my movement, breaks and food consumption. We’ve built up the intervals I’ve been standing and I’ve become very used to it by now.  I just get up on my feet on instinct and am now not thinking about it so much.

If my legs get tired, I sit down, but I do find I’m more sociable with this desk – I’m not peering over my monitor anymore, so I do feel the new desk has a psychological impact. It would definitely be beneficial to have it permanently.”

Pete Segar, Managing Director of Ergotron said: “Ergotron is proud to be providing the sit-stand desks to the CSS research team. We know from previous shorter term studies, that using our WorkFit® sit-stand desks are both an effective and feasible intervention for reducing sedentary time and helping promote more movement in the office. And we look forward to the results of this longer term study.”

Research on this project is also being carried out by CSS’ Professor Rob Shave, Jane Black, Tony Dawkins, Tom Bridge, Charlotte Williams Zavia Incledon and Katy Scorer. Other members of the research team include Professor John Buckley and Lizzie Parker from University of Chester.​

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