Reducing Sedentary Behaviour in the Workplace
: Using Digital Health Technology

  • Aoife Stephenson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis



Office work generally consists of high amounts of sedentary behaviour (SB) which has been associated with negative health consequences (Van Uffelen et al., 2010; Hadgraft et al., 2016 a). To reduce this risk there is a need for workplace SB reduction interventions (De Cocker et al., 2015). Considering the opportunities afforded by digital technologies, the aim of this thesis was to develop, evaluate and assess the feasibility of a theory-informed, digital intervention to reduce occupational SB.


Phase one involved a systematic review and meta-analysis exploring the effectiveness of technology-enhanced interventions to reduce SB. This led to phase two which explored office workers’ perceptions on barriers and facilitators via focus groups and interviews (n=48) to reducing occupational SB and beliefs regarding technology-supported approaches. These phases informed the development of a mobile application (app) intervention - “Worktivity” (phase three), which incorporated behaviour change techniques to help reduce occupational SB. Phase four explored the feasibility of using “Worktivity” to promote occupational SB reductions. The randomized controlled feasibility study and process evaluation (n=56) consisted of the “Worktivity” intervention xviii to promote occupational SB reductions in office workers tested over an 8-week period, with or without a sit stand work desk (SSWD), relative to a comparison condition.


Findings from phase one indicated that it may be possible to reduce occupational SB using technology-enhanced interventions by approximately 40 minutes per day. Phase two revealed the main barrier to reducing sitting at work was the requirement to complete job tasks. Technology was seen to be valuable in providing prompts and to allow behavioural self-monitoring. Phase three led to the development of “Worktivity”, a theory based and user informed mobile app intervention to reduce occupational SB. The findings of phase four suggest it is feasible to implement “Worktivity” with the addition of a SSWD for desk-based office workers, with potential to evoke change in SB.


The resulting app “Worktivity” is the first of its kind developed with the primary aim of reducing occupational SB using digital self-monitoring. This thesis presents a formative, iterative, participatory approach to developing and evaluating a digital intervention to reduce workplace SB, which may be used as a template for other intervention developers.
Date of Award1 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMarie Murphy (Supervisor), Christopher Nugent (Supervisor), Suzanne Mc Donough (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Mair (Supervisor)


  • Sedentary Behaviour
  • Digital Technology
  • Behaviour Change
  • Systematic Review
  • Focus Group
  • Feasibility
  • Mobile App

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