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The longest scientific experiment of its kind began today (April 23, 2015) at Virgin Media offices, headed up by a Professor who will be leading courses at University Centre Shrewsbury.

John Buckley, Professor of Applied Exercise Science, is steering a research team at the Sheffield contact centre to uncover the impact of a working environment that reduces the amount of time people spend sitting. The research will look at the effects on health, wellbeing and productivity. 

Two groups of customer service agents at the Sheffield centre – where 900 people are employed by Virgin Media – have volunteered to use adjustable sit-stand desks and stay on their feet for a minimum of two hours each day. The first group will use the adjustable height desks for six months, and the second group (the cross-over control group) for the next six months.

The move has been triggered by reports that highlight the increasingly sedentary lifestyles led by UK office workers. The evidence suggests that sitting for long periods of time can result in increased risks of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses.

Prof Buckley, who lives in Shropshire, is currently also contributing to the University Centre Shrewsbury curriculum, leading wider research and will be lecturing at the institution from September.

Previous short-term studies have calculated that a person could burn around 30,000 extra calories per year, which equates to half a stone of fat (8lbs), simply by standing for two to three hours a day at work.

Prof Buckley’s team will perform ongoing tests at the Virgin Media offices to determine the health and productivity benefits for the 24 customer service agents and the results will inform future ways of working and the physical workplace environment within Virgin Media.

Prof Buckley said: “The simple act of standing for even as little as two hours per day can increase muscle activity to have a significant impact on health and wellbeing. This unprecedented study with Virgin Media will allow us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits working on your feet can have on health and performance.”

Provided by Posturite, the desks are adjustable, making it possible to sit or stand throughout the day. In parallel with the Sheffield experiment, Virgin Media is also making a number of sit-stand desk units available at various sites across the country for employees to trial.

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