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.