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The UTAS Active Work Laboratory


Mission Statement

To educate and inspire our current and future workforce towards behaviours that support better health and wellbeing while preventing the early onset of inactivity-related disease and disability.

 The Lab

The Active Work Laboratory offers workplaces new and innovative ways of combating workplace habits, such as prolonged sitting that contribute to sedentary lifestyles and a range of potential health issues.

Since 2011, researchers in the Active Work Laboratory at the University of Tasmania have established themselves as proponents of blending digital solutions with behaviour change theories that enable employees to re-introduce movement into their everyday work routines.

The lab, located on the Newnham campus, has the digital capacity and academic expertise to create and deploy eHealth solutions for bespoke industry and academic needs across the State, Australia, and the globe.

Interested in learning how to engage with the Active Work Laboratory? Contact lab director Scott Pedersen to find out more.


 The Research

The Active Work Laboratory enables university researchers to study and learn more about how technology-based interactive movement solutions can help improve the health of employees.

We design collaborative, industry-focused research projects to engage experienced, postgraduate students to join our lab team.

The accordion folders below contain links to our published research, systematic reviews and meta-analyses that have featured our research and advertised project descriptions for postgraduate scholarship.

Contact lab director Scott Pedersen to explore the possibilities for collaboration and/or future study.

You can also follow our lab news on Twitter: @ActiveWorkLab

Breaking the habit? Identifying discrete dimensions of sitting automaticity and their responsiveness to a sitting‑reduction intervention
Authors B Gardner, CP Mainsbridge, AL Rebar, PD Cooley, C Honan, J O’Brien, SJ Pedersen
Journal International Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Abstract Growing evidence suggests that sitting is activated automatically on exposure to associated environments, yet no study has yet sought to identify in what ways sitting may be automatic. Method: This study used data from a 12-month sitting-reduction intervention trial to explore discrete dimensions of sitting automaticity, and how these dimensions may be affected by an intervention. One hundred ninety-four office workers reported sitting automaticity at baseline, and 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months after receiving one of two sitting-reduction intervention variants. Results: Principal component analysis extracted two automaticity components, corresponding to a lack of awareness and a lack of control. Scores on both automaticity scales decreased over time post-intervention, indicating that sitting became more mindful, though lack of awareness scores were consistently higher than lack of control scores. Conclusion: Attempts to break office workers’ sitting habits should seek to enhance conscious awareness of alternatives to sitting and afford office workers a greater sense of control over whether they sit or stand.
Peer champions responses to nudge-based strategies designed to reduce prolonged sitting behaviour: Lessons learnt and implications from lived experiences of non-compliant participants.
Authors PD Cooley, CP Mainsbridge, V Cruickshank, H Guan, A Ye, SJ Pedersen
Journal AIMS Public Health
Abstract Occupational sedentariness is problematic for office-based workers because of their prolonged sitting periods and the advent of technology which reduces work-based movement. A common workplace strategy to deal with this preventable health risk is to have workers engage in brief movement breaks throughout the workday. To date, the use of interventions underpinned by individual self-regulation has had less than optimal impact on changing workers sedentary work behaviours. An alternative design for workplace interventions is the use of nudge theory. Nudge theory incorporates strategies that are delivered at the point of choice designed to influence individual decision making regarding alternative behaviour options. In this study, desk-based workers were exposed to two nudge strategies which suggested alternative behaviours of regular standing and taking movement breaks during work periods to the default behaviours of prolonged sitting and sedentary work behaviour. A small group of women managers who served as peer champions (n = 6), withdrew early from the study, and then took part in an exit interview to gain an understanding of their experiences of being exposed to the two nudge strategies. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using inductive, reflexive thematic analysis. Two major themes with seven second order themes central to their experiences were extracted: facilitative behaviour and feelings (advocacy, acceptance & facilitative burden) and dysfunctional behaviours and feelings (dysfunctional behaviour & feelings, control, reactance & presenteeism). Participants initially perceived a positive exchange associated with exposure to nudge strategies. Yet, participants' emotional connection to their work roles and behaviour were perceived as a negative exchange. Participants cited numerous maladaptive feelings because of a perception of incongruency with the established work normative behaviour. These findings reveal that nudge strategies of reduced choice and social norms are viable, but perceptions of monitoring can moderate adherence.
Using an e-health intervention to reduce prolonged sitting in UK office workers: A randomised acceptability and feasibility study.
Authors SE Carter, R Draijer, JD Maxwell, AS Morris, SJ Pedersen, LEF Graves, DHJ Thijssen, ND Hopkins
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Abstract Low-cost workplace interventions are required to reduce prolonged sitting in office workers as this may improve employees’ health and well-being. This study aimed to assess the acceptability and feasibility of an e-health intervention to reduce prolonged sitting among sedentary UK-based office workers. Secondary aims were to describe preliminary changes in employee health, mood and work productivity after using an e-health intervention. Healthy, university office workers (n = 14) completed this study. An 8 week randomised crossover design was used, consisting of two trials: Intervention (computer-based prompts) and Control. Eligibility and retention rates were recorded to assess the feasibility of the trial and interviews were conducted following the intervention to explore its acceptability. Sitting, standing and stepping were objectively assessed prior to and during week 8 of each trial. Before and after each trial, measurements of vascular function, cerebrovascular function, mood and work productivity were obtained. This study had eligibility and retention rates of 54.5% and 77.8%, respectively. Participants expressed a lack of autonomy and disruption to their workflow when using the e-health intervention, raising concerns over its acceptability and long-term implementation. Preliminary data indicate that the intervention may improve the patterning of activity accrued during work hours, with increases in the number of standing and stepping bouts completed, in addition to improving vascular function. This e-health intervention is feasible to deliver in a cohort of university office workers. However, adaptations to its implementation, such as personalised settings, are needed to increase acceptability before larger trials can be conducted.
Blood pressure response to interrupting workplace sitting time with non-exercise physical activity: Results of a 12-month cohort study.
Authors CP Mainsbridge, KDK Ahuja, AD Williams, ML Bird, PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen
Journal Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Abstract Objective: To evaluate the blood pressure (BP) effects of a yearlong e-health solution designed to interrupt prolonged occupational sitting time.

Methods: BP data of 228 desk-based employees (45.1 ± 10.5 years) were analyzed at baseline, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

Results: Systolic BP significantly reduced from baseline for the first 9 months (1.0 to 3.4 mmHg; P < 0.01) while diastolic and mean arterial pressure decreased for the full 12-months (4 to 5 mmHg for diastolic pressure and 3.6 to 4.2 mmHg for MAP; all P < 0.01). Participants used the e-health solution 5.5 ± 2.0 times/day in the first 3 months which reduced to 4.2 ± 2.5 times/day by the end of the study (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: An e-health solution designed to increase non-exercise physical activity by interrupting sitting time in the workplace is feasible and produced long-term reductions in blood pressure.
Taking a stand for office-based workers' mental health: The return of the microbreak.
Authors CP Mainsbridge, PD Cooley, K de Salas, J Tong, MW Schmidt, SJ Pedersen
Journal Frontiers in Public Health
Abstract There is evidence that movement-based microbreaks can improve the cardiovascular health of desk-based employees, but their effect on mood states is yet to be investigated. As daily work tasks can potentially result in the loss of physical and psychological resources, the objective of this study was to measure the effect of movement microbreaks during formal work time on mood states. In a randomized-controlled pilot study with repeated measures (baseline, post-test, washout) of self-reported job stress and mood states (fatigue and vigor), police officers (N = 43) were exposed to movement microbreaks during work hours. A multivariate significant difference between groups was noted after the intervention period. Further analysis revealed that the experimental group reported a latent reduction in job-related stress after the 3-months washout period. Although the study was conducted with a small sample, our preliminary findings suggest that interrupting sedentary work with movement microbreaks may have beneficial effects on employee mental health. The implications of movement microbreaks for mitigating work-related stress of first responders, including police, is discussed, along with directives for future research.
A longitudinal look at habit strength as a measure of success in decreasing prolonged occupational sitting: An evidence-based public health initiative.
Authors SJ Pedersen, PD Cooley, CP Mainsbridge, VJ Cruickshank
Journal Open Journal of Safety Science and Technology
Abstract Background: Sitting to perform desk-based work is considered to be a habit. To test this hypothesis, desk-based workers volunteered to be part of a yearlong pilot study utilising an e-health intervention designed to interrupt prolonged workplace sitting with movement breaks.

Methods: Participants in a passive-prompt group had to engage with an e-health software programme on an hourly basis during work hours, while participants in an active-prompt group were allowed to postpone the prompt each hour. Daily adherence data and self-reported sitting habit strength were measured every 13 weeks for one year. A mixed design ANOVA was used to determine significant differences at the p < 0.05 level.

Results: Passive-prompt participants reported significant improvements in reducing sitting habit strength over time, compared to active-prompt participants who actually reported increased sitting habit strength.

Conclusions: This study provided preliminary evidence that changing desk-based workers’ sitting habits might be more difficult than previously estimated and that passive-based interventions could be one solution.
Is self-reporting workplace activity worthwhile? Validity and reliability of Occupational Sitting and Physical Activity Questionnaire in desk-based workers.
Authors SJ Pedersen, CM Kitic, ML Bird, CP Mainsbridge, PD Cooley
Journal BMC Public Health
Abstract With the advent of workplace health and wellbeing programs designed to address prolonged occupational sitting, tools to measure behaviour change within this environment should derive from empirical evidence. In this study we measured aspects of validity and reliability for the Occupational Sitting and Physical Activity Questionnaire that asks employees to recount the percentage of work time they spend in the seated, standing, and walking postures during a typical workday. Three separate cohort samples (N = 236) were drawn from a population of government desk-based employees across several departmental agencies. These volunteers were part of a larger state-wide intervention study. Workplace sitting and physical activity behaviour was measured both subjectively against the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, and objectively against ActivPal accelerometers before the intervention began. Criterion validity and concurrent validity for each of the three posture categories were assessed using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients, and a bias comparison with 95 % limits of agreement. Test-retest reliability of the survey was reported with intraclass correlation coefficients. Criterion validity for this survey was strong for sitting and standing estimates, but weak for walking. Participants significantly overestimated the amount of walking they did at work. Concurrent validity was moderate for sitting and standing, but low for walking. Test-retest reliability of this survey proved to be questionable for our sample. Based on our findings we must caution occupational health and safety professionals about the use of employee self-report data to estimate workplace physical activity. While the survey produced accurate measurements for time spent sitting at work it was more difficult for employees to estimate their workplace physical activity.
Activity behaviors of university staff in the workplace: A pilot study
Authors ML Bird, CM Kitic, CP Mainsbridge, PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen
Journal Journal of Physical Activity & Health
Abstract Sedentary behavior is related to metabolic syndrome and might have implications for the long-term health of workers in a low activity environment. The primary aim of this pilot study was to determine activity levels of adults working at a University during work hours. A secondary aim was to determine the relationship between actual and perceived activity levels. Activity levels of university staff (n = 15, male = 7, age = 53 ± 7 years, BMI = 26.5 ± 2.5kg·m2) were monitored over 5 consecutive workdays using SenseWear accelerometers, then participants completed a questionnaire of their perception of workplace sedentary time. Each participant spent 71.5 ± 13.1% (358 ± 78 min) of their workday being sedentary (< 1.5 METs), 15.6 ± 9.0% involved in light activity (1.5–3 METs), 11.7 ± 10.0% in moderate activity (3–5 METs), and 1.1 ± 1.3% in vigorous activity (> 5 METs) (P < .0001). The mean difference between actual (SenseWear < 1.5 METs) and perceived sitting time was –2 ± 32%; however, perceived sedentary time was reported with a range of under-to-over estimation of –75% to 51%. This pilot study identifies long periods of low metabolic activity during the workday and poor perception of individual sedentary time. Interventions to reduce sedentary time in the workplace may be necessary to ensure that the work environment does not adversely affect long-term health.
A workplace intervention designed to interrupt prolonged occupational sitting: Self-reported perceptions of health from a cohort of desk-based employees over 26 weeks
Authors CP Mainsbridge, PD Cooley, SP Fraser, SJ Pedersen
Journal International Journal of Workplace Health Management

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of a workplace intervention designed to interrupt prolonged occupational sitting time (POST) and its impact on the self-reported health of a cohort of desk-based employees.

Design/methodology/approach: In total, 43 participants received an interactive computer-based software intervention for 26 weeks. For the first 13 weeks the intervention passively prompted the participants to interrupt POST and perform brief bouts of non-purposeful movement. The second 13 weeks involved the passivity of the intervention being removed, with the intervention only accessible voluntarily by the participant. This approach was adopted to determine the sustainability of the intervention to change workplace health behaviour.

Findings: ANOVA results revealed a significant interaction between group and test occasion, F(2, 42)=2.79, p < 0.05, such that the experimental group increased their total health from pre-test to post-test (13 weeks), and to second post-test (26 weeks) with a medium effect size of Cohen’s d=0.37.

Research limitations/implications: An action research approach was implemented for this study, and hence the participants were organised into one group. Based on a communitarian model, the intervention aimed to monitor how desk-based employees adapted to specific health behaviours, and therefore a control group was not included.

Practical implications: Passively prompting desk-based employees to interrupt POST and perform non-purposeful movement at work improved self-reported health. Participant perceptions of health were maintained following the removal of the passive feature of the intervention.

Social implications: Interventions predicated on a social ecological model that modify how employees interact with the workplace environment might provide a framework for health behaviour change in populations where sitting is customary.

Originality/value: The passive approach used in this study removed the individual decision-making process to engage in health behaviour change, and established a sustainable effect on participant health.

The effect of an e-health intervention designed to reduce prolonged occupational sitting on mean arterial pressure
Authors CP Mainsbridge, PD Cooley, SP Fraser, SJ Pedersen
Journal Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Abstract To evaluate the effect of a workplace health intervention designed to reduce prolonged occupational sitting on the mean arterial pressure (MAP) of desk-based employees. This randomized controlled trial involved an experimental group who received an e-health intervention and a control group who did not. The 13-week intervention passively prompted participants to stand and engage in short bouts of office-based physical activity by interrupting prolonged occupational sitting time periodically throughout the workday. Mean arterial pressure was measured at pretest and posttest. Between pretest and posttest the experimental group significantly reduced their MAP, whereas MAP in the control group did not. A workplace e-health intervention designed to reduce prolonged occupational sitting was effective in decreasing MAP in desk-based employees.
An e-health intervention designed to increase workday energy expenditure by reducing prolonged occupational sitting habits
Authors SJ Pedersen, PD Cooley, CP Mainsbridge
Journal WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation
Abstract Desk-based employees face multiple workplace health hazards such as insufficient physical activity and prolonged sitting. The objective of this study was to increase workday energy expenditure by interrupting prolonged occupational sitting time and introducing short-bursts of physical activity to employees' daily work habits. Over a 13-week period participants (n = 17) in the intervention group were regularly exposed to a passive prompt delivered through their desktop computer that required them to stand up and engage in a short-burst of physical activity, while the control group (n = 17) was not exposed to this intervention. Instead, the control group continued with their normal work routine. All participants completed a pre- and post- intervention survey to estimate workplace daily energy expenditure (calories). There was a significant 2 (Group) × 2 (Test) interaction, F (1, 32) = 9.26, p < 0.05. The intervention group increased the calories expended during the workday from pre-test (M = 866.29 ± 151.40) to post-test (M = 1054.10 ± 393.24), whereas the control group decreased calories expended during the workday from pre-test (M = 982.55 ± 315.66) to post-test (M = 892.21 ± 255.36). An e-health intervention using a passive prompt was an effective mechanism for increasing employee work-related energy expenditure. Engaging employees in regular short-bursts of physical activity during the workday resulted in reduced sitting time, which may have long-term effects on the improvement of employee health.
Assessment of the impact of a workplace intervention to reduce prolonged occupational sitting time
Authors PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen, CP Mainsbridge
Journal Qualitative Health Research
Abstract We aim to provide a better picture of the outcomes associated with implementing a nonpurposeful, physical activity, e-health intervention in a professional workplace. There is a need for health professionals to evaluate physical-activity-based workplace health interventions with a full range of measures. Using a social ecological model as a basis, we identify a range of subjective outcomes from 15 interviews of a cross section of participants. We document that not only did participants report a range of positive outcomes across multiple systems of influence, but they experienced some negative outcomes because of disruption to work flow and a changing of work habit. We conclude that using subjective evaluations provides a comprehensive picture of the factors that influence judgments of the efficacy of a workplace health intervention.
The effect of education on compliance to a workplace health and wellbeing intervention: Closing the loop
Authors L Smith, SJ Pedersen, PD Cooley
Journal Universal Journal of Public Health
Abstract Desk-based worksites are increasingly the focus of workplace health and wellbeing interventions. These interventions often utilize an educational session prior to participants engaging, yet limited studies have specifically examined the effect education has on compliance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect pre-intervention participant education had on the odds of compliance to a passive e-health software program designed to increase non-exercise activity thermogenesis throughout the workday. Participants in the experimental group (n=46) were exposed to multifaceted pre-intervention participant education one day prior to initiating the e-health software intervention for an eight-week study period. The control group (n=33) also received the intervention for eight weeks, however these participants received no education prior to initiation. The e-health software had a self-report progress recording function, which recorded all logged movement entries to gain frequency counts of per day usage. The experimental group logged more active days, more movements per day and was significantly more compliant to the e-health software (OR=1.87, 95% CI = 1.56-2.24). A pre-intervention participant education session, coupled with a passive e-health software program, was an effective mechanism for decreasing prolonged employee sedentary periods and increasing movement throughout the workday.
A pilot study of increasing nonpurposeful movement breaks at work as a means of reducing prolonged sitting
Authors PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen
Journal Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Abstract There is a plethora of workplace physical activity interventions designed to increase purposeful movement, yet few are designed to alleviate prolonged occupational sitting time. A pilot study was conducted to test the feasibility of a workplace e-health intervention based on a passive approach to increase nonpurposeful movement as a means of reducing sitting time. The study was trialled in a professional workplace with forty-six participants (33 females and 13 males) for a period of twenty-six weeks. Participants in the first thirteen weeks received a passive prompt every 45 minutes on their computer screen reminding them to stand and engage in nonpurposeful activity throughout their workday. After thirteen weeks, the prompt was disabled, and participants were then free to voluntary engage the software. Results demonstrated that when employees were exposed to a passive prompt, as opposed to an active prompt, they were five times more likely to fully adhere to completing a movement break every hour of the workday. Based on this pilot study, we suggest that the notion that people are willing to participate in a coercive workplace e-health intervention is promising, and there is a need for further investigation.
A Privacy-Preserving Desk Sensor for Monitoring Healthy Movement Breaks in Smart Office Environments with the Internet of Things
Authors A Maiti, Anija Ye, M Schmidt, SJ Pedersen
Journal Sensors
Abstract Smart workplace Internet of Things (IoT) solutions rely on several sensors deployed efficiently in the workplace environment to collect accurate data to meet system goals. A vital issue for these sensor-based IoT solutions is privacy. Ideally, the occupants must be monitored discreetly, and the strategies for maintaining privacy are dependent on the nature of the data required. This paper proposes a new sensor design approach for IoT solutions in the workplace that protects occupants’ privacy. We focus on a novel sensor that autonomously detects and captures human movements in the office to monitor a person’s sedentary behavior. The sensor guides an eHealth solution that uses continuous feedback about desk behaviors to prompt healthy movement breaks for seated workers. The proposed sensor and its privacy-preserving characteristics can enhance the eHealth solution system’s performance. Compared to self-reporting, intrusive, and other data collection techniques, this sensor can collect the information reliably and timely. We also present the data analysis specific to this new sensor that measures two physical distance parameters in real-time and uses their difference to determine human actions. This architecture aims to collect precise data at the sensor design level rather than to protect privacy during the data analysis phase.
Dose-response effects of periodic physical activity breaks on the chronic inflammatory risk associated with sedentary behavior in high-and upper-middle income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Authors Sahabudeen A, Rao CR, Chandrasekaran B, SJ Pedersen
Journal Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research and Reviews
Abstract Background and aims: Though moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is speculated to mitigate the inflammatory risk associated with sedentary behavior, only a fraction of the global population meets the recommended weekly dose of MVPA. More individuals indulge in bouted and sporadic light-intensity physical activity (LIPA) that occurs throughout the typical day. However, the anti-inflammatory effects of LIPA or MVPA breaks during prolonged sitting remains unclear. Methods: A systematic search was done on six peer-reviewed databases through January 27th, 2023. Two authors independently screened the citations for eligibility, and risk of bias and performed a meta-analysis. Results: The included studies originated from high and upper – middle income countries. Observational studies of SB interruptions with LIPA showed favourable effects on inflammatory mediators such as higher levels of adiponectin (odds ratio, OR = +0.14; p = 0.02). However, these findings are not supported by the experimental studies. Experimental studies reported non-significant increase in cytokines including IL-1β (standardised mean difference, SMD = 0.11 pg/ml; p=0.29) and IL-6 (SMD=0.19 pg/ml; p=0.46) after interrupting sitting with LIPA breaks. But these LIPA breaks were found to reduce C-reactive protein (SMD=- 0.50 mg/dl; p=0.85) and IL-8 levels (SMD=−0.08 pg/ml; p=0.34) but did not reach statistical significance. Conclusion: Interrupting prolonged sitting time with LIPA breaks shows promise for preventing the inflammatory effects associated with prolonged bouts of daily sitting, though the evidence remains in infancy and limited to high- and upper-middle income countries.
Effects of prolonged sitting interventions on chronic low-grade inflammation in adults: A protocol for a systematic review
Authors S Azharuddin, CR Rao, B Chandrasekaran, SJ Pedersen
Journal Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal
Abstract Background. Chronic systemic inflammation (CSI) is linked with pathogenesis of chronic disease risk including type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, there is dearth of evidence to inform the stakeholders about the pooled effect of excessive sedentary behaviour or its interruptions, which may alter the CSI in adults. Our systematic review will aim to find the evidence behind the sedentary behaviour interventions on CSI. Methods. Five databases (Scopus, PubMed, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Ovid Medline and CINAHL) will be searched for studies examining the influence of excessive sitting or its interruptions on CSI markers (Interleukin; C-Reactive Protein, Cytokines), its dose, gender differences and context specific settings. Studies that included healthy working, adult population will be examined by two independent reviewers. Results. The study quality will be assessed by QualSyst tool and Cochrane Risk of Bias tools using Revman 5.4. The mean effect size of the sitting interventions on CSI markers will be presented after exploring for potential publication bias. Appropriate visualisation of the effects of the outcome measures of interest will be assessed through Forrest plots to assess the direction, consistency and size of the intervention. Conclusions. Potential associations between excessive sitting and the effects of interruption interventions on CSI will be explored after assessing the quality of the studies.
Effect of standing or walking at a workstation on cognitive function: A randomised counterbalanced trial
Authors C Bantoft, MJ Summers, PJ Tranent, MA Palmer, PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen
Journal Human Factors
Abstract Objective: In the present study we examined the effect of working while seated, standing or while walking on measures of short-term memory, working memory, selective and sustained attention, and information processing speed. Background: The advent of computer-based technology has revolutionised the adult workplace, such that average adult full-time employees spend the majority of their working day seated. Prolonged sitting is associated with increasing obesity and chronic health conditions in children and adults. One possible intervention to reduce the negative health impacts of the modern office environment involves modifying the workplace to increase incidental activity and exercise during the workday. While modifications such as sit-stand desks have been shown to improve physiological function, there is mixed information regarding the impact of such office modification on an individual cognitive performance and thereby the efficiency of the work environment. Method: In a fully counterbalanced randomised control trial, we assessed the cognitive performance of 45 undergraduate students for up to a one-hour period in each condition. Results: The results indicate that there is no significant change in the measures used to assess cognitive performance associated with working while seated, standing, or while walking at low intensity. Conclusion: These results indicate that cognitive performance is not degraded with short-term use of alternate workstations.
A randomised control trial of the cognitive effects of working in a seated as opposed to a standing position in office workers
Authors BA Russell, MJ Summers, PJ Tranent, MA Palmer, PD Cooley, SJ Pedersen
Journal Ergonomics
Abstract Sedentary behaviour is increasing and has been identified as a potential significant health risk, particularly for desk-based employees. The development of sit-stand workstations in the workplace is one approach to reduce sedentary behaviour. However, there is uncertainty about the effects of sit-stand workstations on cognitive functioning. A sample of 36 university staff participated in a within-subjects randomised control trial examining the effect of sitting vs. standing for one hour per day for five consecutive days on attention, information processing speed, short-term memory, working memory and task efficiency. The results of the study showed no statistically significant difference in cognitive performance or work efficiency between the sitting and standing conditions, with all effect sizes being small to very small (all ds < .2). This result suggests that the use of sit-stand workstations is not associated with a reduction in cognitive performance.
Caution regarding exergames: A skill acquisition perspective i. Caution regarding exergames: A skill acquisition perspective
Authors SJ Pedersen, PD Cooley, VJ Cruickshank
Journal Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Abstract Background: The advent of technology use in physical education is upon us. But the implications of using exergames as a substitute for traditional physical education instruction for some students raise questions. Although exergames have the potential to increase energy expenditure and motivation in some children, it is less clear whether they can provide skill acquisition benefits that are similar to those found in traditional physical education. Purpose: In a previous experiment from our laboratory, we found that deliberate practice can significantly reduce the planning time required for lateral arm movements. The purpose of this study was to determine if exergames can produce a similar effect, by reducing the processing time required for children to initiate arm movements to the contralateral and ipsilateral space. Participants and setting: Thirty children (boys = 15, girls = 15), between the ages of 7 and 12 years, participated in a pre- and post-test each taking 30 min and one 30 min treatment session in a university laboratory. Research design: A repeated measures design was employed to test the effects of deliberate laterality practice on processing speed. Children were randomly assigned (n = 10) to either a Nintendo Wii tennis contralateral movement experimental group, Nintendo Wii bowling ipsilateral movement experimental group, or handheld video-game control group. Each child participated in one 30 min treatment session. Data collection: Upper extremity choice reaction time (RT) was measured through 27 goal-directed aiming movements for each arm separately, during the pre-test and post-test. The stimulus–response trials occurred in three randomly presented directions (ipsilateral, contralateral, and midline). Data analysis: A 3 (treatment group) × 2 (age group) × 2 (test) × 3 (direction) mixed design analysis of variance with repeated measures on the last two factors was used to test for significant differences, with an alpha level set at 0.05. Findings: There were no significant treatment effects on RT across all groups indicating that a short bout of exergame training was unsuccessful in improving lateral movement processing. Conclusions: Deliberate laterality practice using exergames did not improve the motor processing speed of lateral arm movements in the same manner of traditional physical education as indicated by our previous research. Explanations as to why exergames do not exhibit the same positive transfer for skill acquisition as traditional physical education instruction are discussed within this paper.
Deliberate laterality practice facilitates sensory-motor processing in developing children
Authors SJ Pedersen
Journal Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Abstract Background: The innate ability for typically developing children to attain developmental motor milestones early in life has been a thoroughly researched area of inquiry. Nonetheless, as children grow and are required to perform more complex motor skills in order to experience success in physical activity and sport pursuits, the range of developmental abilities becomes increasingly variable. What is less known in the literature is if physical education and sport programmes deliberately designed to facilitate the motor development of these underlying abilities can improve the efficiency of purposeful movements in children. Purpose: To determine if the sensory-motor processing of lateral arm movements in children can be initiated quicker as a result of deliberate laterality practice. Participants and setting: Forty-five children (boys = 23, girls = 22), between the ages of 8 and 11 years, randomly selected from several Tasmanian (Australia) communities participated in this study. Each child participated in 1 day (∼90 min) of data collection in a laboratory at the university. Research design: A repeated measures design using upper-extremity choice reaction time (RT) tests, separated by a 30-min treatment was employed in the current study. To test the effects of deliberate laterality practice on processing speed, children were randomly assigned into contralateral ball-bouncing (CBB), ipsilateral ball-bouncing, or a control video-game group (n = 15 in each). The treatments were designed using tenants of Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer's theory of deliberate practice on expert performance, and the specificity of the training principle commonly discussed in the exercise science literature. Data collection: On an individual basis, each participant performed 27 empirical trials of goal-directed aiming movements with each arm separately, during the pretest and post-test. The stimulus-response trials occurred randomly in three different directions at the same distance from the starting position (ipsilateral, contralateral, and midline). Data analysis: A 3 (treatment group) × 2 (test) × 2 (arm) × 3 (direction) mixed design analysis of variance with repeated measures on the last three factors was used to test for significant differences, with an alpha level set at 0.05. Findings: Results revealed the CBB group experienced significantly shorter RTs in the contralateral direction during the post-test, likewise the ipsilateral group had significantly shorter RTs in the ipsilateral direction after the treatment. Further, the control group exhibited longer RTs in the contralateral direction compared to their pretest. Conclusions: Even after a short bout of deliberate laterality practice, children were able to reduce the processing speed associated with their lateral movements. Practitioners in the field may utilize these findings to foster developmental readiness in children wishing to improve their ability to perform the more complex motor skills requisite for successful sport and physical activity participation.
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Please check back here soon.


 The Team

Our research team has expertise in a multitude of discipline areas across the Colleges at the University of Tasmania (UTAS):

  • College of Arts, Law and Education (CALE)
  • College of Health and Medicine (CoHM)
  • College of Science and Engineering (CoSE)
  • College of Business and Economics (CoBE)

Collectively, we utilise a socio-ecological theoretical foundation, as well as elements of protection motivation theory, to investigate e-health prompting structures to prevent psychosocial hazards associated with prolonged sitting during work hours.

To learn more about our team, have a play with the interactive image above. Hover over the College nodes to expand our team members.  Zoom in and out with your mouse scroll wheel, or just drag the team around.

Want to know what it is like to work in the UTAS Active Work Lab? Have a look…

Scott Pedersen

Senior Lecturer (CALE), Lab Director

Follow Scott on @ActiveWorkLab


Dean Cooley

Adjunct Associate Professor (CALE)

Follow Dean on @active_dr

Matthew Schmidt

Lecturer (CoHM)


Cynthia Honan

Senior Lecturer in Psychology (CoHM)

Follow Cynthia on @neurocyn

Ananda Maiti

Lecturer (CoSE)


Bikramjit Ghosh

Teaching Fellow (COBE)

Connect with Bikramjit on LinkedIn bikghosh

Andrew Williams

Associate Professor (CoHM)


Kiran Ahuja

Senior Research Fellow (CoHM)

Marie-Louise Bird

Senior Lecturer (CoHM)


Matt Palmer

Senior Lecturer (CoHM)

Vaughan Cruickshan

Lecturer (CALE)

Follow Vaughan on @UTASHPE


Kira Patterson

Lecturer in Health Pedagogy (CALE)

Follow Kira on @Patterson_Kira

Anjia Ye

Anjia Ye

Master of Research student, School of Education

Malia Valenciano

Malia Valenciano

B.Ed. with honours

  • Dissertation title: Self-efficacy, a mediator of health behaviour change
  • Supervisors: Scott Pedersen and Dean Cooley
  • Follow Malia on @MaliaValenciano


Bridget Russell

Bridget Russell

B.Sc. with honours

Christina Bantoft

Christina Bantoft

B.Sc. with honours


Lachlan Smith

Lachlan Smith

B.Ed. with honours

Jiajin Tong

Assistant Professor, Peking University (China)


Hongwei Guan

Associate Professor, Ithaca College (New York, USA)

Sophie Carter

Senior Lecturer, York St John University (United Kingdom)


Baskaran Chandrasekaran

Assistant Professor, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (India)

Casey Mainsbridge

Senior Lecturer, University of New England (Australia)


Jane O'Brien

Senior Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology (Australia)



The Active Work Laboratory has a successful track record of partnering with diverse industries to deliver sustainable digital solutions that improve employees’ physical and mental health. Currently our digital solutions are used by universities, government agencies and industry in Australia, India, and the United Kingdom.

Industry leaders that prioritise the physical health and mental health of their employees, and have interest in the relationship between employee health and work productivity should contact lab director Scott Pedersen to discuss how the Active Work Laboratory researchers can co-develop a sustainable digital solution for your workplace.



Active Work Laboratory
University of Tasmania – Newnham Campus
Locked Bag 1307
Launceston TAS 7250

Active Work Laboratory
University of Tasmania – Newnham Campus
Room G101
Newnham Drive, Newnham
Launceston TAS 7250

To Follow the Active Work Lab