City centre business helps University take a healthy stand for new BBC show

Posted on 4th April 2013

Staff at a city centre estate agents have teamed up with nutrition and exercise experts from the University of Chester to feature in a new series being filmed by the BBC’s Science Department.

The team at Matthew’s estate agents, on Lower Bridge Street, is currently taking part in a pilot study devised by Dr John Buckley, from the University’s Clinical Sciences and Nutrition Department, which will assess the health benefits of working at a standing desk.

The study is inspired by recent research that suggests spending long periods of time sitting down can have a negative effect on health, irrespective of whether people go to the gym, or do any other exercise.

It is set to feature in an episode of a forthcoming three-part BBC2 series, to be aired later this year, which will highlight current trends in health and medical research, as well as address common questions the public has about maintaining and improving personal health.

Dr Buckley, a Reader of Applied Exercise Science in Health and lead Lecturer for the University’s MSc in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, has been using a standing desk himself since the New Year.

He said: “The hours we spend every day at work, locked to our desks, in front of computer screens, can increase the risk of developing diabetes 112%, the risk of heart attack 147%, and death from cardiovascular events 90% – alarming statistics. 

“The negative effects of sitting down, however, can be countered by the simple act of standing up. Standing rather than sitting will elevate the heartbeat six to 10 beats a minute. A higher heart rate from standing clearly indicates more calories being burned.

“Over the course of a year just standing instead of sitting could burn up to 30,000 extra calories. That’s 8lbs of human fat for doing nothing but standing up – how easy is that?”

Expanding on this idea he and a team from the University and the Countess of Chester Hospital have been testing and monitoring the 14 colleagues at Matthew’s over four days.

Participants have been wearing a heart rate monitor that fits around the chest, and an accelerometer that sits on the hip.

Dr Buckley is conducting experiments on oxygen usage during sitting and standing to calculate the actual calorie difference. Diabetes specialists Dr Frank Joseph and Nurse Specialist Sue Edwards, from the Countess, have been monitoring blood glucose in the staff to assess if standing up helps better regulate blood sugar levels.

The collected data is now being analysed and Dr Buckley will be returning to Matthew’s with the BBC next week to deliver the results.

Rebecca Matthew, Partner at Matthew’s, said her company was very keen to take part in the experiment.

She explained: “I heard about this research project through Chester Business Club and thought it sounded really interesting. I put it to the rest of the staff and was surprised at how keen they all were to participate.

“It has been a really interesting experience trying out the standing desks and we have already noticed some benefits such as feeling more alert and energised, and feeling less strain on our necks and shoulders as our posture is so much better when using the computers.

“The desks are very easy to move up and down so you can have a break from standing very quickly whenever you need one, or can move the desk down to sit and talk to clients when they come in.

“It will be interesting to see our results from over the test period and we are all really looking forward to seeing the finished programme.”