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Do you think that you do not sit down much at work? Modern technology will tell you the truth


“Earlier studies on how much time we spend sitting down at work were based on self-assessment, but our physical activity sensors show that self-assessment is unreliable,” says Svend Erik Mathiassen, professor in occupational medicine at the University of Gävle.

With modern technology, in the form of minimal sensors fastened to the thigh, researchers can monitor sedentary behaviour and physical activity in an objective manner, and in this way get closer to the truth.

“When allowing those who work in physically active occupations to report how much time they spent sitting down, they said that they sat down very little, but new technology shows that they sit down for longer periods than they thought.”

Svend Erik Mathiassen also informs us that some people think that they spend 90% of their day sitting down, but in fact it is less.

“It is interesting to note that workers often miscalculate their own physical activity at work, but the sensors provide us with objective data.”

Differences are huge

Sven Erik Mathiassen claims that objective information like that gained from sensors provides a better basis for constructing work tasks that are beneficial for people.

“Differences are huge; lorry drivers spend almost their whole working day sitting down, while cleaners and aircraft loaders do not sit much. This new cheap technology helps us to establish facts. 10 years from now, people will no longer be asked about things that we can monitor.”

Same technology as in activity wristbands

In fact, researchers are now doing what many people choose to do voluntarily when they put on an activity wristband. They monitor movement and speed and can communicate messages like “too few steps today,” “you are okay today” or “take a rest.”

“People tend to enjoy these sensors. We attach sensors for the participants to wear for five days and nights, and afterwards they are keen to find out what they have actually done during this time.”

It is about helping people

Physical inactivity is a known risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer and premature death. However, any occupation requiring very heavy physical activity without providing sufficient time for recovery is also a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

“People in occupations requiring very heavy physical activity can have poorer muscle strength and be less fit than those in occupations requiring light physical activity. This is quite the opposite to what we tend to believe. Modern technology provides the tools to help us to decide who sits down too much and needs measures to reduce sedentary time periods and who is in the opposite situation and needs time to sit down to recover.



Svend Erik Mathiassen, professor in occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Gävle.
Phone: 026-648206, 070-678 81 58
E-mail: svenderik.mathiassen@hig.se

Text: Douglas Öhrbom

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2020-02-18
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)