Despite the demonisation of sitting down all day, a new study claims that prolonged periods of standing at work might be just as bad for you as smoking.
Whilst extended sitting has been linked to cancer, type 2 diabetes and speeding up ageing – it was even hailed as the new smoking in a widely-cited study published last year – it turns out that standing for long periods of time might not be good for you either.
Those who stand up for prolonged periods of time are more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found.
In the 12-year-long study, researchers looked at the workplace habits of 7,000 participants in Ontario, Canada and found that those who stood at work were twice as likely to contract heart disease in comparison to those who spent the day sitting down.
“The incidence of heart disease among those respondents who stood a lot at work (6.6 per cent) is similar to the incidence of heart disease among workers who smoked on a daily basis (5.8 per cent) or those who were obese (6.9 per cent),” the study’s author Peter Smith wrote on The Conversation.
Standing for hours on end increases the pressure in the veins and amplified oxidative stress, which might contribute to the increased risk of heart disease, related studies have found.
Prolonged standing has also been linked to chronic back pain and musculoskeletal disorders in the legs.
Smith suggests that employers should focus on wellness programs that target those who are subjected to prolonged periods of standing just as they would target daily smokers.
For those who cannot avoid standing at work, he advises regularly stretching during breaks to ease the muscles.
Aside from those who voluntarily choose to install a standing desk at a typically sedentary office, some of the jobs that are most at risk include cashiers, sales personnel, chefs and health care staffers.
With studies suggesting both sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time carry health risks, perhaps the solution is to alternate between the two (if your boss allows it).