Effect of Standing or Walking at a Workstation on Cognitive Function: A Randomized Counterbalanced Trial

Hum Factors. 2016 Feb;58(1):140-9. doi: 10.1177/0018720815605446. Epub 2015 Sep 24.


Objective: In the present study, we examined the effect of working while seated, while standing, or while walking on measures of short-term memory, working memory, selective and sustained attention, and information-processing speed.

Background: The advent of computer-based technology has revolutionized the adult workplace, such that average adult full-time employees spend the majority of their working day seated. Prolonged sitting is associated with increasing obesity and chronic health conditions in children and adults. One possible intervention to reduce the negative health impacts of the modern office environment involves modifying the workplace to increase incidental activity and exercise during the workday. Although modifications, such as sit-stand desks, have been shown to improve physiological function, there is mixed information regarding the impact of such office modification on individual cognitive performance and thereby the efficiency of the work environment.

Method: In a fully counterbalanced randomized control trial, we assessed the cognitive performance of 45 undergraduate students for up to a 1-hr period in each condition.

Results: The results indicate that there is no significant change in the measures used to assess cognitive performance associated with working while seated, while standing, or while walking at low intensity.

Conclusion: These results indicate that cognitive performance is not degraded with short-term use of alternate workstations.

Keywords: cognitive function; randomized control trial; sitting; standing; walking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult