Spend a lot of time on your feet at work? You could be doubling your risk of heart disease.
Most people are aware that sitting at a desk all day is not good for their health. Prolonged sitting has been linked to a range of diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders. Safe Work Australia recognises sitting as an important health and safety issue that can be detrimental to your health. However, you shouldn’t ditch the chair just yet. New research suggests that standing at work all day is not without its own unique health concerns.
Canadian researches found that people who typically stand at work were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease than those who sat through their shifts. The study was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, and tracked more than 7000 workers over a 12-year period.
In the study, jobs that typically required prolonged standing included sales and service workers, cooks, food and beverage servers and bank tellers – and the findings were significant. Those that mostly stood at work were found to have incidences of heart disease (6.6%) on par with workers who smoked daily (5.8%), and workers who were obese (6.9%).
This was the case even after taking into account a wide range of factors, including personal factors (age, gender, education levels, ethnicity, immigrant status and marital status), health (e.g. diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, mood and anxiety disorders) and the type of work being performed (e.g. physical demands, shift schedule)
Senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Canada, and lead author of the study, Peter Smith, said the reasoning behind this was simple – standing at work all day puts pressure on your heart to pump blood. “When you’re standing for a prolonged period of time, the blood tends to pool in your legs, and it’s hard for your heart to pump that blood back up to the top of your body.”
The solution? Speaking to The Conversation, Mr. Smith said employers needed to provide more flexible work environments, and allow their workers to alternate between sitting and standing wherever possible. “With the exception of cooks, there aren’t specific reasons why workers in many of these occupations need to stand for prolonged periods of time. Rather, the need to stand in these jobs has more to do with the need to be seen by the public as being attentive, interested and polite.”
“Workplace wellness programs should focus on reducing prolonged standing at work, just as they target smoking and unhealthy diet habits, to curb cardiovascular disease.”
Luckily, Mr. Smith said there was an effective intervention that workplaces could easily implement to tackle the issue of prolonged standing.
“They’re called chairs.”