Advancing Wellbeing: Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and the Workplace

November 19, 2014


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


Prolonged sedentary behavior characterized by long bouts of sitting increases the risk for premature mortality and chronic health hazards including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and musculoskeletal disorders. This increased risk is present even among individuals who regularly engage in moderate-vigorous physical activity. More than 50% of the American workforce is employed in office jobs involving prolonged sitting and are therefore at risk for these health hazards. Ergonomic sit-to-stand and dynamic treadmill workstations are innovative workplace interventions that allow office workers to decrease sedentary behavior and engage in light activity and standing while working. 

A goal of Dr. John’s work is to decrease workplace sedentary behavior to improve overall health in office workers. He has demonstrated that overweight office workers using treadmill workstations for 9-months replace an average of 2.5 hours of sitting with slow walking and standing while minimally affecting work productivity. This increase in light intensity activity resulted in significant weight loss and improved cardiovascular and metabolic health. Similarly, office workers using sit-to-stand workstations reduced their average sitting time by 2.6 hours during the workday over the course of 8 months. Dr. John uses commercially available sensor-based devices to measure and motivate behavior change to maximize intervention efficacy among office workers. 

Dr. John is currently collaborating with Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners Health Care and is conducting a cluster-randomized control study aiming to compare the health benefits of decreasing sedentary behavior at work using treadmill and sit-to-stand workstations on various markers of health. This work is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The talk will discuss findings from his previous work supporting the health benefits of engaging in light intensity activity at the workplace and the future directions of this line of research.


Dinesh John, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Health Sciences Department at Northeastern University and the interim program director for the graduate program in Exercise Science. He earned his doctorate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and received postdoctoral training at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. John’s research examines the effects of physical activity and sedentary behavior on various health outcomes. His interventions mainly target the workplace and focus on modifying the office space to promote physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior. These interventions include treadmill and sit-to-stand workstations that allow sedentary office workers to alternate between sitting, standing and slow walking while simultaneously performing work.

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