14 Sep 2017

Could standing desks do more harm than good?

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:18 pm on 14 September 2017
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Photo: RNZ

It's not news that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health, so to combat the effects of too much sitting many people now do office work on standing desks.

But new research has found that people who have to stand at work for long periods have double the risk of heart disease of people who work while seated.

Senior scientist Peter Smith (the author of the study) tells Jesse Mulligan about the discovery.

What's the harm in standing up at work?

"Blood tends to pool in your legs, there's an increase in the venous tension because the veins have to get the blood back up to your heart."

Over time, this increased pressure on the heart can - along with stress - can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, Smith says.

Any posture which is static stresses the body, and people with the most active occupations - that combine sitting, standing and walking - have a lower risk of heart disease.

To keep healthy at work we need to be less sedentary and take more breaks, whether or not we're seating or standing, Smith says.

Retail assistants, bank tellers and food & beverage servers stand all day at work, but otherwise don't get a lot of activity.

"Most people who stand at a standing desk, when they feel tired, they'll sit down. All we want to do is draw some attention to the people who don't have that luxury, who actually have to stand because that's part of their job … It would be great if we allowed those people to do more sitting and if, ideally, we allowed everyone to be a bit more active in their work environment."

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