Standing At Work May Be A Lot More Dangerous Than Sitting

haidut

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I am sure many people here have seen the flood of ads for "standing desks" - a raised desk without a chair which a person uses to work in an upright position instead of sitting. Thee have been many health claims made for these desks, none of which have been verified so far in controlled studies. I was suspicious of these claims and the whole "standing" fad from the very beginning as they seemed to be based on the same old (and discredited) story "eat less and move more". Now this new study found that prolonged standing on the job leads to twice as high risk of heart attacks or heart failure.
I wonder how much more productive and profitable companies would be if they simply stopped chasing the latest health fad based on nothing but recommendations by Dr. Oz.

Prolonged standing on the job more likely to lead to heart attack than prolonged sitting | Institute for Work & Health
"...Workers who stand on the job most of the time are at greater risk of heart disease than workers who predominantly sit. According to a study just published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (doi 10.1093/aje/kwx298), even after taking into account a wide range of personal, health and work factors, people who primarily stand on the job are twice as likely as people who primarily sit on the job to have a heart attack or congestive heart failure. “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, who led a team of researchers from IWH and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) to conduct this study. “Our results suggest that workplaces also need to pay attention to the health effects of prolonged standing, and target their prevention programs accordingly.”
 

squanch

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It also collected job title information, which was used to estimate if a job primarily involved sitting, standing/walking, a combination of sitting/standing/walking or other body posture

Even after adjusting for a wide range of factors— personal (e.g. age, gender, education levels, ethnicity, immigrant status, marital status), health conditions (e.g. diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, mood and anxiety disorders), health behaviour (e.g. smoking, drinking, body mass index, exercise) and work (e.g. physical demands, shift schedule) — the risk of heart disease was still twice as high among people who primarily stood on the job compared to those who primarily sat.

Jobs that primarily involve standing will mainly be things like hospitality, contruction etc.
How would you even adjust for the insane stress levels in those jobs. Pretty sure I was close to a heart attack when I was still working in a kitchen and it had nothing to do with standing all day.

I agree though, just from personal experience standing without moving doesn't really feel healthy, just like sitting for prolonged periods without moving. Both causes lower back pain for me.
A combination of sitting with correct posture and standing up and moving around a bit every 30 minutes or so intuitively feels best.
 

Wagner83

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Jobs that primarily involve standing will mainly be things like hospitality, contruction etc.
How would you even adjust for the insane stress levels in those jobs. Pretty sure I was close to a heart attack when I was still working in a kitchen and it had nothing to do with standing all day.

I agree though, just from personal experience standing without moving doesn't really feel healthy, just like sitting for prolonged periods without moving. Both causes lower back pain for me.
A combination of sitting with correct posture and standing up and moving around a bit every 30 minutes or so intuitively feels best.
In my experience combining standing with immobility leads to blood flow issues, in particular it can be hard on the veins.
 

jaa

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Jobs that primarily involve standing will mainly be things like hospitality, contruction etc.
How would you even adjust for the insane stress levels in those jobs. Pretty sure I was close to a heart attack when I was still working in a kitchen and it had nothing to do with standing all day.

I agree though, just from personal experience standing without moving doesn't really feel healthy, just like sitting for prolonged periods without moving. Both causes lower back pain for me.
A combination of sitting with correct posture and standing up and moving around a bit every 30 minutes or so intuitively feels best.

I mostly agree. I have a sitting desk at work and a standing desk at home. I feel better and more limber when I'm at home and find it easier to stay at the computer. This is a function of it being easier to adjust my posture and move around at a standing desk. There just aren't as many options to sit with good posture. I also feel much more lethargic and like garbage when I end up sitting for extended periods (30min plus). This doesn't really happen when I stand.
 

Dan Wich

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I also feel much more lethargic and like garbage when I end up sitting for extended periods (30min plus). This doesn't really happen when I stand.
I'm similar, and I wonder if this helps explain some of the results of the study. I find standing feels active, engaged, and "dopaminey", but that it's more difficult to relax psychologically. Maybe both sitting and standing have physiological consequences when they're maintained for long periods.
 

tca300

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winter2012masterjohnfig4.jpg cept for that sweet little pop of extra Co2 haha...

Reiff C, Marlatt K, Dengel DR. Difference in caloric expenditure in sitting versus standing desks. J Phys Ac Health. 2012;9(7):1009-11
 

Thoushant

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Jobs that primarily involve standing will mainly be things like hospitality, contruction etc.
How would you even adjust for the insane stress levels in those jobs. Pretty sure I was close to a heart attack when I was still working in a kitchen and it had nothing to do with standing all day.

I agree though, just from personal experience standing without moving doesn't really feel healthy, just like sitting for prolonged periods without moving. Both causes lower back pain for me.
A combination of sitting with correct posture and standing up and moving around a bit every 30 minutes or so intuitively feels best.

I had two different part time jobs at storage and logistics companies. Both had computers on a standing desk.
The first guy, was inside the storage facility, his computer was full of details of incoming products, available storage locations, new orders etc etc, all in fancy codes (A12, C64.32.1) he had to constantly direct people and fork lifts around to keep the system flowing.

The other company had standing desks, in a room above the storage facility, the guy worked with the economics part of business.
First guy broke a sweat, second guy had a breeze..

Posture is related to heart attacks, and for me personally, nothing gets my posture tensed and messed than a bit of frustration and time pressure.
 

jaa

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I'm similar, and I wonder if this helps explain some of the results of the study. I find standing feels active, engaged, and "dopaminey", but that it's more difficult to relax psychologically. Maybe both sitting and standing have physiological consequences when they're maintained for long periods.

Yeah just the fatigue of holding one position can't be good for you. I think this is especially true when sitting and having your hips and knees hinged at 90 degrees. I've read online accounts that people have best results with mixing in standing and sitting. This somewhat jives with my own experience as I tend to feel more energized at work the more frequently I take a break from sitting and get up and move around a bit.
 

Mato

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Poor people stand at work, rich people sit at their desk.

I bet if you controlled for salary, this discrepancy would disappear.
 
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Poor people stand at work, rich people sit at their desk.

I bet if you controlled for salary, this discrepancy would disappear.

I came in to say this. This is probably more related to class than it is to standing or sitting.
 

Herbie

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Recently there was a short interview with the Australian Prime Minister in his office in Parliament House and he had a sitting and standing desk and the interviewer commented on it and he said "They say sitting is the new smoking"
 

yerrag

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I came in to say this. This is probably more related to class than it is to standing or sitting.
One way to find out is to study pharmacists. They get a good salary upwards of $100k. But they are required to stand all the time at work.
 

tankasnowgod

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Yeah just the fatigue of holding one position can't be good for you. I think this is especially true when sitting and having your hips and knees hinged at 90 degrees. I've read online accounts that people have best results with mixing in standing and sitting. This somewhat jives with my own experience as I tend to feel more energized at work the more frequently I take a break from sitting and get up and move around a bit.

This is absolutely my experience as well. I find in the morning, I prefer standing about 75% of the time, and that percentage seems to decrease as the day goes on. Certain things I prefer to be seated for, and standing for others. I do find myself moving around a lot earlier in the day, too. I think it's the most problematic when you are holding a certain position for an extended period of time. Holding the same position while standing would be extra stressful.

I recently got one of those electric sitting/standing desks at Costco when they were selling them for $300 (they are long since sold out). The ability to change things up is ideal for me.
 

Zpol

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Most office workplaces will not allow a standing only work station. In my department we have raised desks and adjustable height chairs so we can sit or stand as desired. Works like a charm. Just like with sitting, you still have to remember stretch and move around intermittently.
 

EndAllDisease

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Whoaaa!!
That's fascinating. Thanks for sharing @haidut.

I wonder what the mechanism behind that is. I also wonder if the material of the floor a person is standing on for long periods would have anything to do with it. (I find standing on concrete painful after a while, which is stressful.)

I have a treadmill desk, and it has been amazing for me. I've noticed I'm a lot more productive while on it and my brain function and creativity are enhanced. At the same time, I can only walk and work for a few hours before becoming tired, so that's when sitting becomes handy.

In the end I think an equal amount of time spent walking, standing and sitting is probably ideal.
 

James IV

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Neither is best. We're made to move during the day.
 

DavidGardner

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Yeah, so what about labor. I stand, lift, push and pull things all day. And I like it best that way, but I'm not standing stationary that much.
 

haidut

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Yeah, so what about labor. I stand, lift, push and pull things all day. And I like it best that way, but I'm not standing stationary that much.

That is probably better than either standing or sitting as long as you are not exhausted every day and skipping meals due to excessive work load.
 

Art Vandelay

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I'm guessing when they say standing they mean standing still with limited/no movement? Perhaps demands on the heart are increased standing still vs sitting? From memory doesn't the soleus(and likely other muscles) aid in venous flow? But this would require movement, so unlikely to happen standing still.
 
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