June 22, 2016 (Toronto, Ontario)—To reduce the health and injury risks of prolonged sitting, workers should change postures often and aim to stand for an equal amount of time that they spend sitting over the course of a work day.
That was Dr. Jack Callaghan’s message in a keynote address this morning before an audience of about 400 researchers and clinicians at the 9th International Scientific Conference on the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (PREMUS 2016).
Although even a small decrease in sitting time has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort, from an overall health perspective, workers should aim for a one-to-one ratio of standing time and sitting time, said Dr. Callaghan. A key consideration is the frequency with which workers change positions, he also noted. Changing positions often, even if total sitting time is not reduced, can result in health benefits, including reduced low back pain.
“With the attention given to sitting related to death, there has been a knee-jerk reaction to demonize sitting and have people stand all of the time. However, standing all the time also carries health risks, and what is needed to reduce these risks is work combining sitting and standing in an appropriate and individualized fashion,” said Dr. Callaghan, Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention.
He added that sit-stand workstations that allow workers to periodically alternate between sitting and standing positions may mitigate work-related health issues, provided that users are given ergonomic training along with the equipment.
PREMUS, held every three years since 1992, is the primary conference of the Musculoskeletal Disorders Scientific Community of the International Commission of Occupational Health (ICOH). PREMUS 2016 runs until June 23 at Toronto’s Allstream Centre, hosted by the Institute for Work & Health.
The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that aims to protect and improve the health of working people. Recognized as one of the top five occupational health and safety research centres in the world, the Institute provides practical and relevant findings on the prevention of work injury and disability to policy-makers, workers, employers, clinicians, and health, safety and disability management professionals: www.iwh.on.ca