Workplace standing breaks: What can planned behaviour constructs tell us?

  • Madelaine Gierc College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan
  • Larry Brawley College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan


In 2008, Healy and colleagues observed that office workers who frequently interrupted their sitting had better metabolic profiles than office workers who engaged in prolonged bouts of sitting. Since then, standing breaks – short bouts of physical activity – have been proposed as one solution to excessive sedentary behaviour. Despite growing interest, no research has examined the psychological predictors of standing breaks in the workplace. The purpose of our research was to investigate standing breaks via the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). STUDY ONE was a qualitative elicitation study. Participants (N=95) reported beliefs regarding workplace standing breaks and sitting. Content analysis identified both individual- and workplace-centred themes, which were used to inform a TPB measure as per Ajzen's web-based guide. STUDY TWO used a prospective design in which 413 participants completed a TPB-based survey about standing breaks and sitting. Content validity of measures was demonstrated via a 3-factor solution corresponding to the TPB constructs of attitudes, social norms, and perceived behavioural control (PBC). The three factors significantly predicted intentions to engage in standing breaks, p<0.01, but variance accounted for was small, R2=0.04. By contrast, TPB constructs predicted substantially more variance in sitting, p<0.001, R2=0.21. Results raise questions regarding the nature of standing breaks in office workers. In comparison to sitting, do standing breaks occur frequently enough for office workers to develop strong beliefs about them? Do these sitting beliefs predict goals/intentions to stand? Should researchers think differently about the psychology of sedentary behaviour and how to change it?

Acknowledgments: CRC Student Training Funds; University of Saskatchewan College of Graduate Studies and Research Dean's Scholarship