Treadmill and cycling workstations appear to provide greater short-term physiological changes than standing workstations, a new analysis of research has shown. The authors of the review*, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, said that although cycling, treadmill and standing workstations all appear to show short-term productivity benefits, treadmill workstations reduce people’s performance of computer-related work – so they and their employers should look at the benefits and limits of each, and choose the type most appropriate for workers’ specific needs and tasks.
Previous research has already shown that active workstations such as standing, walking and cycling might reduce sitting time and could enhance health and productivity at work, but until now the comparison between the different types of active workstations and their respective benefits has remained unclear. So, a team from Université de Montréal, in Quebec, Canada, conducted a review of studies that had included adults using at least two types of active workstations, and had evaluated biomechanical, physiological work performance and/or psychobiological outcomes; they identified 12 suitable studies.
The researchers reported that compared with standing workstations, treadmill workstations induced greater movement/activity and greater muscular activity in the upper limbs. And compared with standing workstations, both treadmill and cycling workstations resulted in elevated heart rate, decreased ambulatory blood pressure and increased energy expenditure during the working day. However, treadmill workstations reduced fine motor skill function (i.e., typing, mouse pointing and combined keyboard/mouse tasks) compared with cycling and standing workstations.
They also found that cycling workstations resulted in improved simple processing task speeds, compared with standing and treadmill workstations. And both treadmill and cycling workstations increased arousal and decreased boredom, compared with standing workstations.
The study authors noted that the benefits associated with each of the three different types of active workstation might not be equivalent. They commented: “Cycling and treadmill workstations appear to provide greater short-term physiological changes than standing workstations that could potentially lead to better health; and cycling, treadmill and standing workstations appear to show productivity benefits while treadmill workstations seem to diminish the performance of work-related use of computers.”
They pointed out that, as workers and the workplace are slowly moving towards active workstations, we need additional evidence from long-term studies integrating different types of active workstations.
They concluded: “Ultimately, workers and corporations should be able to critically examine the benefits and limitations of each type of workstation and determine which is most appropriate for the worker’s specific needs and tasks.”
*Dupont F, Léger P-M, Begon M, et al. Health and productivity at work: which active workstation for which benefits: a systematic review. Occup Environ Med Epub ahead of print: 28 January 2019. doi:10.1136/oemed-2018-105397.