There has been a lot of attention as of late placed upon the detrimental health effects brought on by prolonged periods of sitting down whilst at work, with countless commentators declaring that “sitting is the new smoking”, in reference to the negative health effects it has been shown to contribute towards. However, new research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has cast doubt on previous assertions by demonstrating that standing, too, can have highly detrimental effects upon an individual’s health if the correct balance cannot be found.

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The study, which focused on 7,300 workers between the ages of 35 and 74 located in the Canadian province of Ontario, found that over a 12-year period, those who predominantly stand throughout the working day are more than twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack or congestive heart failure as those who spend the majority of their time seated. This holds true even after taking into account various additional factors relating to the respondents’ personal lives, general health, and work.

Those involved in the study were confirmed to have no prior history of heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions, and were also respondents to the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, giving the researchers access to detailed information relating to a range of personal factors, health conditions, health behaviours, and working conditions. The researchers also collected additional information such as the job titles of respondents in order to further refine their data and resultant findings.

Of the 7,300 respondents, 9% predominantly stand at work while 37% spend much of their time seated. The remaining percentage experiences a more balanced mix throughout their day.

Over the 12-year period incorporated into the study, 3.4% of the study group developed heart disease, with men having a higher rate of incidence at 4.6% than women, for whom the total came in at 2.1%. Putting other factors aside, the risk of heart disease was higher among people whose jobs required mostly standing (6.6%) than among people whose jobs involved mostly sitting (2.8%).

Even once other factors were accounted for, the risk of developing heart disease was found to be approximately doubled for those workers who spend the bulk of their time standing, as compared to those who tend to be seated for the majority of the working day. Worryingly, the study also concluded that the unadjusted risk of heart disease was actually higher among workers who predominantly stand than it is for smokers.

“Workplaces have been hearing a lot lately about the health effects of prolonged sitting on the job,” says Institute for Work & Health (IWH) Senior Scientist Dr. Peter Smith. “Our results suggest that workplaces also need to pay attention to the health effects of prolonged standing, and target their prevention programs accordingly.

“A combination of sitting, standing and moving on the job is likely to have the greatest benefits for heart health. Workplaces need to apply this message not just to workers who predominantly sit, but also – in fact, especially – to workers who predominantly stand. Prevention programs that focus solely on physical job activity, while ignoring other conditions such as the psychosocial work environment, are unlikely to lead to meaningful changes in cardiovascular risk.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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