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Acute Low-back biomechanical and physiological effects of the sit-stand paradigm

Motivation

Sedentary behavior, characterized by prolonged sitting, is emerging as an important risk factor for poor health, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. For office workers, more than 80% of work time has been reported to be sedentary time, thus making the workplace a significant contributor to overall sedentary time in a day. At the same time, sedentary workers are also second only to heavy lifting workers in terms of the incidence and severity of low back pain and disability. 

Given that there is a 60-80% lifetime prevalence of low back pain, the potential social and economic benefits to be gained from reducing risk factors for low back pain and injury in this population of seated workers are tremendous. Among the interventions to break up prolonged occupational sitting, alternative workstations such as sit-stand desks have emerged as a popular and viable intervention. However, while the cardio-metabolic health effects of sit-stand workstations are being extensively documented, there is very little understanding of the effects of performing computer work in a sit-stand paradigm on the low-back biomechanical system.

Objective

This project aims to explore the acute low-back biomechanical and physiological effects of breaking up continuous sitting with a sit-stand paradigm.

Approach

This work supports our longer-term goal of determining whether the sit-stand paradigm poses any biomechanical risks/benefits to the lumbar spine when compared to only sitting, and developing evidence-based practical guidelines for using sit-stand desks. The latter is intended so that users can both use these desks effectively (i.e., obtain the intended cardio-metabolic health effects) and not “over-use” them (i.e., be exposed to any unintended/additional biomechanical risk factors).