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Study links prolonged standing at work to heart disease

August 23, 2017

Toronto – Standing for long periods of time at work may double your risk for developing heart disease, according to researchers from the Institute for Work and Health and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Using data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, the researchers tracked 7,300 workers between the ages of 35 and 74, none of whom had heart disease when the study began. Nine percent of the workers said their jobs required them to primarily stand, while 37 percent said they mostly sat at work.

Over the course of the 12-year study, 3.4 percent of participants were diagnosed with heart disease. The risk of heart disease was higher among people whose jobs required mostly standing (6.6 percent) than among people whose jobs involved mostly sitting (2.8 percent). Even when researchers adjusted those numbers for demographic, health conditions and health behavior, the risk ratio remained the same.

“Workplaces have been hearing a lot lately about the health effects of prolonged sitting on the job,” IWH Senior Scientist Peter Smith, who led the research team, said in an Aug. 17 press release. “Our results suggest that workplaces also need to pay attention to the health effects of prolonged standing and target their prevention programs accordingly.”

Smith said a combination of sitting, standing and moving on the job is likely to have the greatest benefits for heart health. However, he cautioned that factors such as work stress need to be taken into account.

“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,” he said.

This study was published Aug. 11 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.