Australians are working longer and exercising less with two out of three adults now classed as overweight or obese – presenting Dr Scott Pedersen with a mighty battle.

As the Director of the Active Work Lab in the University of Tasmania's Faculty of Education, a facility bringing together researchers keen to find healthy alternatives to desk-based work, Dr Pedersen is racing to find new solutions to Australia’s sedentary lives – battling not just bulging waistlines, but also risks of muscular-skeletal and cardio-metabolic conditions that can arise as a result of prolonged sitting.

“There are two main areas of our research at this point, the Hotdesk idea which replaces the traditional chair with a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stepper or bike, or the Exertime idea, which prompts people to get out of their chair every hour and move around,” Dr Pedersen said.

So far what we have found is that productivity doesn’t decrease when we introduce these activities; what we are now looking at in a year-long study, is whether their productivity actually increases.

The projects came about in 2009, when reality TV shows tackling obesity became popular and raised awareness of the issue but also leaving many people feeling incapable of making changes to their daily routine that would have any impact.

Following a look into research about sedentary desk jobs that highlighted the fact that a single bout of exercise a day was not sufficient to make up for a day spent at a desk, Dr Pedersen and his research partner on the Exertime project, Dr Dean Cooley, began to research how exercise could be incorporated into the workday easily and efficiently.

We want to make people more mindful of their working environment and the impacts it can have on their health.

“We also hope to be able to show employers the short and long-term benefits for their employees when they are staying active at work.”

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