Standing may be worse for your heart than sitting

Over the years, you’ve undoubtedly heard a lot about the negative effects of sitting all day. Spending too much time on your butt can age you by eight years, promote weight gain, and cause back problems.

Is standing all day at work instead of using a chair the solution then? Perhaps not, according to a recent study that was written up in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In the study, 7,320 persons who worked at least 15 hours a week were surveyed. Their vocations were examined to ascertain how much time each person would spend sitting, standing, or moving around. One study indicated that men who spend the majority of their working hours standing, such as standing behind a counter at a bank or behind a cash register at a store, have a twofold higher risk of heart disease compared to men who spend the majority of their time sitting.

The reason for that increased heart risk is actually pretty simple, says Peter Smith, Ph.D., lead author of the study and scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Canada.

Home caregiver helping a senior man standing up at home
Standing may be worse for your heart than sitting

“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,” he said. That can increase your risk of heart disease.

Standing all day, which can put your body in an uncomfortable position for a prolonged period of time, he says, can also increase oxidative stress, a process that can damage cells in your body and increase inflammation. Again, not good for your heart.

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So Is Your Standing Desk Hurting Your Health?

No need to shelve your standing desk and go back to spending the rest of your workday parked on your butt.

“One of the things about [standing desks] is that they enable people to be able to stand when they feel uncomfortable sitting, and vice versa,” Smith said. “I think the key here is that workers have the flexibility to be able to move their bodies when they want to.”

And it’s that movement that may be helping your heart—you’re neither sitting nor standing for hours on end.

So make that your workday goal: In fact, the study found that workers who did a combination of sitting, standing, and walking had about a 40 percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who only stood all day.

“It’s as simple as just providing a chair to workers, or rotating their shifts so that they’re not forced to stand for prolonged periods of time,” Smith said.

If you need to stand all day, at least make sure you walk around a little to get your blood moving. And if you sit all day, get up, stand, and move when you can. By simply switching between sitting and standing every few hours, or getting up to go for a quick walk or two to get your blood flowing throughout the day, you can lower your risk of heart disease.


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