from the research Jun 13, 2019

When we are talking with our clients we need to make sure that we are on top of the most up-to-date ergonomics information right?

RIGHT!

In this post I'm diving into this new piece of research that gives you cold-hard-knowledge that you can store in your back pocket for when the need arises in your day-to-day practice. Today, we're looking at the age-old question of:

Should you be recommending cycling in the office?

So, we all know that active computer workstations may help to reduce sedentary behaviours. Is that enough?

Typically whenever I do an office ergonomic assessment, I always make suggestions to my client that encourages them to incorporate less sitting in their day. 

But here's the thing. I don't just encourage them to sit less or to limit sitting to one hour at a time. Instead, I like to recommend 'value-added' strategies that limit prolonged sitting. These include:

  • Standing whenever a call is made/taken
  • Standing when reading a 'hard' copy (aka paper) 
  • Instead of emailing a colleague walk over to them to discuss the matter
  • If filling is required, divide the total amount of filing throughout the entire workday

Allowing the client to use their discretion on how to incorporate these suggestions in their day gives them flexibility. The alternative is 'Break Software', which in my experience gets less than stellar results. After all, who wants to be interrupted during their flow of work, especially when there is a deadline looming on an employee's radar. 

Is More Activity Better? 

Previous research on treadmill desks in the office have found them to be beneficial (or at least not negative) to performance only at very low speeds. 

Interestingly, these researchers showed that cycling workstations affected typing performance less than the walking condition, even at moderate speeds! 

Let's get into what this research is sharing about cycling in the workplace: 

  • Discomfort in the neck and shoulder region was found to significantly increase with time and at higher intensity.
  • Physiological changes occurred with very little impairment on performance. In fact, most indicators of performance improved with time and were better at higher peddling intensity. 
  • Biking while typing may have some advantageous, injury-preventative effects (albeit small), due to the cardiovascular effect.

But wait, these results look awesome. Shouldn't we all just hop on our stationary bikes tomorrow at the office and recommend them to 100% of our clients?

No. Research participants were young and likely more active than the general population. Additionally, the study design used 60 minute bouts of low-pressure, low-cognitive text copying using a laptop, which is not representative of today's office demands. Lastly, in this study, laptops were used as the primary input device. Long durations of laptop use can place more strain on the user's upper extremities, notably the shoulder region (which, interestingly is the exact same area measured in this research), so there could potentially be some conflicting data in the result section. 

So, are Stationary bikes the 'new' Standing Desk? 

Not yet. In my opinion sit-stand desks are appropriate for the majority of the population, which makes them very hard to replace. In fact I don't think sit-stand desks have hit their 'full stride' yet, and that there's many parts of the workforce that can still benefit from their use, if they are used responsibly, that is. Sit-stand desks are becoming quite common. Their reasonable price-point has allowed them to be in the budget of many organizations. This is in comparison to just 10 years ago when they were considered expensive and not necessary. How times can change... for the better and perhaps this mirrors how alternatives like treadmill desks and stationary bikes will be used in the future!

So, what do you think? 

Leave a comment below and start the conversation! What do you think of the use of stationary bikes in the office? 

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