Background: The dose and time-pattern of sitting has been suggested in public health research to be an important determinant of risk for developing a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disorders and diabetes. The aim of the present study was to assess the time-pattern of seated and standing/walking postures amongst male and female call centre operators, on the basis of whole-shift posture recordings, analysed and described by a number of novel variables describing posture variation.
Methods: Seated vs. standing/walking was recorded using dichotomous inclinometers throughout an entire work shift for 43 male and 97 female call centre operators at 16 call centres. Data were analysed using an extensive set of variables describing occurrence of and switches between seated and standing/walking, posture similarity across the day, and compliance with standard recommendations for computer work.
Results: The majority of the operators, both male and female, spent more than 80% of the shift in a seated posture with an average of 10.4 switches/hour between seated and standing/walking or vice versa. Females spent, on average, 11% of the day in periods of sustained sitting longer than 1 hour; males 4.6% (p = 0.013). Only 38% and 11% of the operators complied with standard recommendations of getting an uninterrupted break from seated posture of at least 5 or 10 minutes, respectively, within each hour of work. Two thirds of all investigated variables showed coefficients of variation between subjects above 0.5. Since work tasks and contractual break schedules were observed to be essentially similar across operators and across days, this indicates that sedentary behaviours differed substantially between individuals.
Conclusions: The extensive occurrence of uninterrupted seated work indicates that efforts should be made at call centres - and probably in other settings in the office sector - to introduce more physical variation in terms of standing/walking periods during the work day. We suggest the metrics used in this study for quantifying variation in sedentary behaviour to be of interest even for other dichotomous exposures relevant to occupational and public health, for instance physical activity/inactivity.
London: BioMed Central, 2012. Vol. 12, no 154