Is Sitting Or Standing For Long Bad For Health?

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Are you sitting or standing for long hours at work or at home? Turns out you could be harming your health.

My job requires me to sit for long hours and stand in between when examining my patients. Occasionally, I get to climb up and down stairs as well.

It therefore comes as no surprise to me that I have put on a little bit of weight over the years.

However, what puzzled me is the fact that this has occurred despite my doing exercise on a regular basis.

Majority of us these days work in jobs that require either prolonged sitting or standing for long hours. The nature of our jobs is such.

There has been much information published over the years that discusses the harmful effects of sitting in one place and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Health care professionals are involved in jobs that require both. Software professionals spend long hours in front of the computer and barely get any time for exercise due to their busy schedules.

Business people are either driving around or riding their motorbikes to meet clients or sitting in one place operating the money till.

Sitting and standing for long hours can have detrimental effects on your health. Here, I will take a look at what each of these can do and how you can keep yourself healthy despite the nature of your job.

Sitting Can Affect Your Health

I have previously discussed how prolonged sitting can have an effect on your heart. However, there is a large amount of clinical data which also suggests that prolonged sitting can have other health effects.

According to an article published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, majority of our jobs now involves sitting for long periods of time. Those who do end up having a greater chance of developing heart disease and diabetes.

standing for long can affect the heart

One study that compared individuals who spent less than two hours a day in front of the television compared to those who spent more than four hours a day.

The group that fell in the latter category had an increased risk of death by nearly 50%.

Shockingly, there was a 125% increase in the risk of heart attacks in this group as well.

In another study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, with every hour spent sitting, the risk of heart disease increased by 14%.

Some have even gone to the extent of saying that sitting for long hours has a worse effect on the heart and health compared to regular smoking.

It is not just a concern in those who sit in front of a computer or a television. People who sit behind the wheel driving around town for long hours as well have the same sort of risk.

In other words, if your commute takes you more than 3 to 4 hours on the road on a regular basis, then you are placing your health at risk.

But what about trying to offset these harmful effects by exercising regularly?

Studies appear to suggest that those who lead a sedentary lifestyle that requires prolonged sitting may not really benefit much from regular exercise either.

Just imagine – would just 30 minutes of exercise a day nullify the harmful effects sitting for nearly 12 hours a day has done?

Not at all.

Suggestions have been made to change once a regular routine and avoid sitting in front of a desk for long periods of time.

For example, taking a walk up a flight of stairs about 3 to 4 times a day, getting up every 20 minutes and walking around the office or even meeting the friend at the water cooler every hour may help to some extent.

For some time now, it was believed that standing is better than sitting. In fact, when advising individuals who spend long hours sitting down at their jobs, it was suggested by medical practitioners that these individuals should do their best to stand longer than sit.

But can standing for long in instead of sitting actually make any difference to health?

Standing For Long Can Affect Your Health

Okay, now even I was surprised by this recent study.

In an article published in September 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, a Canadian group found that individuals who spent long hours standing as a part of their job had a twofold increase in heart disease compared to those who spent more time sitting.

What??

All this while sitting was bad! Now even standing is bad?

We are fully aware that standing for long hours in the day can place a great deal of stress on the joints and the blood vessels.

For example, many housewives who is spending hours in the kitchen or on their feet doing household work develop arthritis in the knee and varicose veins.

This recent study has now changed the entire perception of what is defined as ”sedentary”.

Previously, it was believed that sedentary just implied the lack of exercise and sitting in one place all the time. Couch potatoes are one such example.

But now, it appears that standing as well is a problem.

Now what??

Is There A Solution To This Conundrum?

Possible Solution

I personally feel that the only way to solve this little riddle is to just keep moving all the time.

While this is probably close to impossible given the jobs we have, we should at least try to exercise as much is possible in between our daily routine and even after.

Taking up exercises that have a fair amount of stressful effect on the heart such as swimming, cycling and running may be a good idea. Brisk walking for those who cannot run is also a good option.

However, I do not believe that a few minutes a day of exercise is sufficient in any way at all. We need a lot more and there are ways that we can achieve it.

Walk 10,000 steps a day. I have written a detailed article on this here.

We should take the stairs as much as possible rather than be lazy and take the lift.

Walk to the shop nearby rather than drive (unless you have a lot of shopping to do).

Get off the bus a couple of stops before your regular stop and walk the remaining distance home. At least you would get some exercise their as well.

Don’t sit for too long in one place. Get up every 20 minutes and take a short walk for a few minutes.

Make sure you get a little more exercise than normal on the weekends when you are free.

When possible, avoid eating food outside too many times in a week. The additives in the food and the quality of the oil can lead to weight gain and related health problems.

Closing Remarks

I am truly surprised that standing is now considered worse than sitting.

But one thing is for sure – if you exercise regularly at an intensity that makes you tired and breathless, you will have a healthy heart and healthy life.

Just make sure that you combine it with a healthy diet.

Dr Vivek Baliga B
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Dr Vivek Baliga B

Consultant Internal Medicine And Cardiovascular Sciences at Baliga Diagnostics Pvt Ltd
Dr Baliga is a consultant in Internal Medicine and Cardiology with an interest in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He received his training in India and the UK where he completed his post graduate training and his doctorate. He then completed his MBA from University of Phoenix, USA. He has completed the post graduate program in Cardiology from Johns Hopkins University and participated in the Advanced Certificate Course in Diabetes from the Cleveland Clinic, USA. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Lipid Management from Middlesex University, UK. He is the managing partner of Baliga Diagnostics, Bangalore. He is also the founder of HeartSense and is a keen advocate of patient empowerment, having written almost every article on this website and more. In his spare time, he enjoys running and spending time with his son. Find Dr Vivek Baliga on LinkedIn here - http://heartsense.in/linkedin.
Dr Vivek Baliga B
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1 Comment

  1. loka prakash varma on

    great write up on sitting for long and problems linked and standing for too long! wish to have a glimpse and write up on such day to day hazards and points for a healthy heart and life!
    thanks once again!! great news!!

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