Evaluation of a sedentary time fractionation intervention for adult home-based workers: Study Protocol
Other authors: Dr. Brian Carson and Prof. Alan Donnelly
Background: With COVID-19 shifting workplace practices, a growing population of
individuals are now working from home. Little is objectively known about the physical
activity (PA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) of adults that are home-based workers during the
COVID-19 pandemic. Previous office-based research has shown that prolonged sitting is
increasingly prevalent, with some office-based occupations workers being sedentary for
75.8% or 81.8% of their working hours, often accrued in prolonged bouts. Coupling a
predominately sedentary occupation with guidelines to restrict movement could see
individuals compromising their metabolic health.
Aim: This study will objectively investigate the current PA levels and SB of home-based adult
workers and examine the feasibility of short light-intensity sedentary breaks and its effects
on cognitive function.
Methods: 112 adults (30 to 67 years old) who are working from home and have no physical
or mental health-related impairments that would prevent them from walking continuously,
for five minutes at numerous times throughout the day, will complete a six-week within-
subjects design intervention. The first three-weeks will be observational, where participants
will wear an activPAL3 micro accelerometer and continue with their daily life. The following
three weeks will consist of breaking up their sitting time using ‘BreakTimer’, a computer
desktop-based application, during working hours. The participants sitting time will be
fractionated every 45 minutes with five minutes of light-intensity walking. Their cognitive
function will be measured weekly via an online survey created using PsyToolkit throughout
the six weeks. Three cognitive tests will be completed by the participants to assess attention
(Go/No-go task); executive memory performance (Eriksen Flanker Test) and working
memory performance (N-Back with N = 3). The primary outcome is prolonged bouts of SB (≥1
hour) assessed pre- and post-intervention. The secondary outcome is cognitive function
assessed pre- and post-intervention.
Conclusion: This study examines the PA and SB of a newly emerging occupational
population. Given COVID-19 and its long-term implications for restricted movement, we
must study home-based workers and the effects it has on their PA, SB, and cognitive
function. The findings should inform policies and public health guidance surrounding PA and
SB when working from home.