Jobs that require workers to stand most of the time put their employees at a greater risk of heart disease than workers who mainly sit, a new Canadian study has found. According to researchers at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), prolonged standing was found to have increased the risk of heart disease in workers by 6.6 per cent. That chance decreased to 2.8 percent among employees who predominantly sat.
The study followed 7,300 workers from Ontario between the ages of 35 and 74 who were initially free of heart disease for a span of 12 years, the study says.
Participants were pulled from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), which collects information on a variety of personal factors like health conditions, health behaviours and work conditions. Also collected was job title information (which was used to see if a job included more sitting, standing/walking, a combination of sitting/standing/walking or other body postures like bending or kneeling).
Of those involved in the study, nine percent were estimated to spend most of their time standing at work while 37 percent were estimated to predominantly sit. From there, researchers linked CCHS information to administrative health records at ICES between 2003 and 2015 to identify new cases of heart disease.
Over this time period, 3.4 per cent of people developed heart disease. To break it down further, men were found to have the highest chances of developing the disease (4.6 percent) compared to women (2.1 percent). Without taking any other factors into account, the study found that the unadjusted risk of heart disease was higher among those who stand than workers who sit (6.6 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively).
But when researchers adjusted for such factors – personal (like age, gender, education, ethnicity, immigrant status and marital status), health conditions, health behaviour (like smoking, drinking, exercising and body mass index) and work (like physical demands and shift schedule) – the risk of develop heart disease was actually twice as high among standers than sitters.
In fact, the unadjusted risk of heart disease among standees (6.6 percent as mentioned above) was even higher than among daily smokers (5.8 percent), researchers say.
Sedentary work, researchers say, adds about two centimetres to the waistline and increases the risk of heart disease by 0.2 percent for every additional hour of sitting on top of five hours.
“Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides (fat in the blood) and lower HDL cholesterol, all adding up to [a] worse risk of heart disease,” study author Dr. William Tigbe said in a statement.
“The levels associated with zero risk factors were walking more than 15,000 steps per day, which is equivalent to walking seven to eight miles, or spending seven hours per day upright.”