Standing room only: prolonged standing at work linked to heart disease

If you’re standing up while you’re reading this, you might want to sit down. New evidence suggests that standing too much while you’re at work could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Hold up…weren’t we all talking about how bad it was for people to sit down for long periods of time not so long ago? Then those nifty standing desks became a thing. 

The dangers of prolonged sitting at work made sense because it goes along with the idea that sedentary lifestyles are bad for you. But what about standing?

Previous studies have linked prolonged standing to back pain and musculoskeletal disorders (as I’m sure anyone who’s worked in retail can attest to). Now, a recent study has shown that standing too long can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

When you stand for long periods of time, blood can start to pool in the legs. This increases the blood pressure in your veins, and leads to higher oxidative stress. All of these factors can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.

The study found that people who mostly stand while working are twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to those who mostly sit. This was taking into account many other factors including the type of work and the individual’s health.

It was actually shown that the incidence of heart disease in workers who stood a lot was very similar to the incidence in obese people, and smokers. This indicates that perhaps workplace “wellness” programs should look at reducing prolonged standing alongside other issues they already target (like smoking, and unhealthy diets).

So, wait…do I sit or do I stand?

Both! The results of this research don’t mean that previous studies telling us that “sedentary lifestyles are bad” are all wrong.

Prolonged sitting at work, and being sedentary in general, is still bad for you. But so is prolonged standing…so (probably unsurprisingly) a mixture of both is best!

The effects of standing for long periods of time are most harmful to people who often don’t have the option to sit while at work. We’re talking retail/sales workers, cooks, hospitality workers etc.

It’s in these areas that cool interventions (like chairs) could be introduced. This would allow workers to sit when necessary throughout their shift.

People using sit-stand desks are able to alternate between sitting and standing as needed. This seems to be the most healthy option if you’re looking to adjust how you work.

The moral of the story is that science backs up what seems like common sense: too much of one thing isn’t good for you! If your job tends to keep you sedentary, make sure you keep active in other areas of your life. Take breaks from sitting at your desk if you find yourself sitting for long periods of time. And if you have to stand for long periods of time, make sure to sit and rest when you need to.

7 Responses to “Standing room only: prolonged standing at work linked to heart disease”

  1. Sarah Nielsen says:

    Seems that nearly everything these days comes down to a healthy balance between two extremes. Sitting or standing? Chocolate or no chocolate? Sugar or no sugar? It is great to have a good excuse to sit down for a while though

  2. Paige Druce says:

    Hi Sophia! The study I looked at didn’t provide a clear cut definition of exactly “how long” they deemed prolonged standing. They more looked at asking participants whether they predominantly stood or sat (or walked around etc.) during their working hours, and looked at that response in conjunction with the amount of weeks they worked, and how many hours they worked on average. Hopefully that answers your question?

  3. Sophia Ren says:

    This is a very engaging topic! I’d choose sitting instead of standing anyway..
    Did the papers you read talked about how long is defined as ‘prolonged’ standing? Just curious:)

  4. Heather Smillie says:

    Great topic for a blog!

    I love how you’ve recognized and leaned into the ridiculousness of the back-and-forth between standing desks and sitting desks!

    Although the science isn’t wrong, it is always this perceived ‘flip-flopping’ between ideas that make non-scientists laugh at (and possibly not trust) science.

  5. Marie says:

    Great post. Finally I have a good excuse to sit down

  6. Abeer Alshehri says:

    Interesting topic, it’s a good advice for thesis students like me ..

  7. Abeer says:

    Interesting topic, it’s a good advice for thesis students like me ..