Overselling Sit-Stand Desks: News Coverage of Workplace Sitting Guidelines

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Journal Article
Health Communication, 2018, 33 (12), pp. 1475 - 1481
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© 2017, © 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. The first quantitative, specific recommendations for sitting time at work were released in June 2015. This paper examines the implications of news coverage received by this position statement. Media reports about statement published May, 31–June, 29, 2015 were analyzed according to five recommendations and three caveats extracted from the guidelines’ press release. Information about how physical activity was framed and mentions of conflicts of interest were recorded. Of 58 news reports, nine reported all five recommendations in the position paper. The topline recommendation (two hours daily of standing and light activity) was reported in all articles. Alleviating musculoskeletal discomfort by sitting less was not reported by 72% of reports. Physical activity was mentioned in 32 reports: 69% said physical activity did not attenuate the risks of prolonged sitting. No reports mentioned any potential conflicts of interest despite co-author links to sit-stand desk industry. These results demonstrate the need to balance public and market demands for public health guidance around sitting; and could encourage more accurate communication of research outcomes. The physical activity component of the “move more and sit less” message requires greater efforts to raise its public salience.
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