Study of dynamic workstations at office and VDU workplaces in the field

Project No. IFA 0021


completed 12/2017


The maintaining of seated postures for longer periods is discussed as a cause of chronic diseases. Studies reveal a detrimental relationship between sustained physical inactivity and musculoskeletal diseases, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, type II diabetes, and premature mortality. Approximately 18 million workers in Germany currently work for at least part of the time in sustained seated body postures. Immobility can therefore present a problem. "Dynamic" office workstations are now available commercially at which office and VDU work can be combined with light physical exercise. In consideration of this situation and in conjunction with the Netherlands' TNO institute, the IFA has already conducted a comparative laboratory study of physical activity and cognitive performance on dynamic and conventional office workplaces. The results showed that dynamic workstations are able to lead to a significant increase in physical activity and energy turnover. Cognitive performance was barely impaired. However, the dynamic workstations studied did not meet with very high acceptance among the users. Against this background and in response to an enquiry from a member company planning to use dynamic workstations in its administrative operations, this study was performed in consideration of the following questions: What dynamic workstations currently available on the market are suitable for use in the field? Following shortlisting of suitable products, these workstations were to be examined in a field study with respect to their efficacy in promoting activity, their acceptance among users, practicability and actual duration of use.


In order for suitable dynamic workstations to be selected, a market survey was first to be conducted and a catalogue of requirements (including the criteria of practicability, costs, efficacy in enhancing activity, anticipated acceptance and comfort/convenience, maintenance overhead, etc.) drawn up in conjunction with the company. The dynamic workstations identified in the survey were then to be tested and evaluated by employees at office and VDU workplaces under operational conditions in a pilot study. The dynamic workstations rated most highly at this pilot stage were subsequently to be studied more closely in a controlled intervention study involving approximately 60 persons (healthy office clerical staff of both sexes, approx. 30 intervention test subjects and 30 control test subjects) with regard to the workstations' efficacy in enhancing activity, acceptance among the users, practicability and actual duration of use. Prior to launching of the intervention, standardized surveys were to be used to measure subjective health complaints, the subjective comfort and convenience of the existing office workplace, and the initial impression of the dynamic office workstation prior to its use. Following detailed instruction of the intervention test subjects on use of the dynamic workstations, the intervention phase (lasting six weeks) was to begin. All participants were to be equipped with wearable activity recording devices. These devices were first to be calibrated in laboratory studies. The displays of the wearable devices were to be obscured in order to prevent direct feedback of the daily physical activity. The measurement data recorded by the wearable devices were to enable the daily physical activity of all test subjects to be quantified. The dynamic workstations were to be made available at lending stations created for the purpose. Sensors were to record both the lending duration and the duration and intensity of actual use. Following the intervention phase, a standardized questionnaire was to be used to record the subjective health complaints, subjective comfort and convenience (all test subjects), and for the intervention test subjects, also the acceptance of the new work situation. The test subjects were also to be questioned on their use of the dynamic workstations, and use of the workstations overall was to be evaluated.


Based upon the results of the market survey and a pilot study in the company, the types of workstation most suitable for use in practice and those rated most highly by the employees were selected for use in the intervention study. The workstation types selected were the "Deskbike" and the under-desk "activeLife Trainer". The lending and usage behaviour of the test subjects in the intervention group was then recorded, physiological effects of the use of both equipment types measured, and the motivation for use and subjectively perceived practicability studied. Effects of use upon general and work-specific well-being were also analysed in a control group design. The results show that during the intervention, the dynamic workstations were used on 40% of the days for an average of 54 minutes per day. The energy turnover and heart rate increased significantly during use of the workstations compared to work in a normal seated position. The Deskbike was used more frequently overall, and led to a greater subjective increase in the heart rate compared to the activeLife Trainer. Both workstations were rated by the participants as well suited to office use; they did not feel that the workstations disturbed their work, and they were motivated to use the workstations of their own accord. An improvement in general well-being was observed only at a usage rate upwards of two to three times per week. The dynamic workstations studied are suitable for daily use, and both workstation types can be recommended for use in offices. Further research into the effects of use upon work-related well-being and into the influence of use of these workstations upon the performance of a range of office tasks is recommended.

Last Update:

10 Jul 2018


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Sporthochschule Köln, RheinAhrCampus Remagen, Deutsche Telekom AG, BG Verkehr (ehemals UK Post und Telekom)


Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards



Description, key words:

office and VDU workplaces, prevention, inactivity, dynamic workstations, use, acceptance, physical activity, wearables