Sit and stand: Find a happy medium at work
Stand up, sit down, what's a worker supposed to do?
Standing desks in the office are fairly commonplace these days, but a new study suggests standing at work might be worse than sitting all day.
The study out of Canada published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found jobs requiring prolonged standing to be much more harmful than jobs that require mostly sitting.
Several years ago, other studies proclaimed that “sitting is the new smoking.”
Researchers in the study followed 7,300 Ontario workers, ages 35 to 74, for 12 years — who worked 15 hours a week or more.
They found people working in standing jobs were about twice as likely to develop heart disease as people working in sitting jobs.
Overall, 3.4 percent of the study participants developed heart disease — the rate being 4.6 percent in men and 2.1 percent in women.
The standing jobs included cashiers, chefs and machine tool operators who stand for four or five hours at a time.
Nine percent of study participants mainly stood at work when the study began compared with 37 percent who sat for long periods of time. They initially responded to a survey about age, ethnicity, height and weight, race, shift schedule, alcohol use and whether they were smokers.
“These findings have important implications for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and the role of the work environment as a cardiovascular risk factor,” the study said. “Predominantly standing occupations, as opposed to predominantly sitting occupations, was the occupational body position category most strongly associated with heart disease.”
Sedentary still isn't good
Still, the results don't mean that a sedentary lifestyle is good for you, said Dr. Indu Poornima, a cardiologist at Allegheny Health Network.
She said finding a happy medium is key to achieving optimal health, adding mental job stress can be just as harmful.
“I think the bottom line is that sitting or standing for long periods of time is not good for you,” Poornima said. “This is not a study I would hang my hat on.”
No matter the job, she recommends exercise at the beginning or end of the day.
Some of its study's limitations included self-reporting from participants, one-time answers and a lack of monitoring of standing and sitting time.
Workers forced to sit for long periods should remember to get up and move around.
“Take the steps when you can, park farther away from the front door so you have to walk more,” said Poonima.
Moreover, she said, allowing people in jobs that require standing a chance to sit could lead to better health.
“You don't want to be at the end of either spectrum,” she said.