Evidence Summary

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Active workstations can lead to decreased sedentary (sitting) time

Torbeyns T, Bailey S, Bos I et al. Active workstations to fight sedentary behaviour Sports Med. 2014;44:1261-73.

Review question

What are the effects of active workstations on health and work performance? 


Sedentary behaviour – low energy activity such as sitting or lying down – has a direct impact on health.  Active workstations allow people to combine physical activity with desk tasks that are normally done sitting down and may help to reduce sedentary time. No systematic reviews have previously focused on the impact of active workstations on health and work performance.

How the review was done

This is a systematic review of 32 studies (including 15 randomized controlled trials) published between 2001 and 2014. Over 800 participants were included in the studies. The quality of the included studies varied: 12 were strong, 10 were moderate and 10 were weak quality.

Key features of the included studies:

  • Measured the impacts of different types of active workstations on a variety of outcomes, including sitting time and/or physical activity, energy use, work performance, health outcomes (eg. weight, cholesterol)
  • 27 studies measured effects of active workstations in adults (19-64 years old); 5 studies measured effects on children.
  • Types of workstations included standing desks (16 studies), treadmill desks (15 studies) and other options, such as elliptical and cycling stations (3 studies)
  • The duration of the studies varied from 1 week to 1 year.  None of the studies required participants to use the workstations for a specific amount of time.  

What the researchers found

Generally, results suggest that given the choice, workers will use active workstations, which results in reduced sedentary behavior and increased energy expenditure during the work day. The impact on health outcomes is less clear as there were mixed effects on measures such as body weight, cholesterol, fat percentage and waist size. More research is needed to determine the effect of active workstations on work performance, and the specific impacts of active workstations on different age groups.


Active workstations lead to decreased time spent sitting, increased energy expenditure, and may improve health.



Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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