Health Risks of Sitting or Standing Too Much at Work

Featured Video Play Icon

An article published in Safety+Health shows that workers who sit more than 8 hours per day experience a higher risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

In a video titled Sitting or standing? Which is best? – posted Nov. 16 – two researchers behind the studies at Canada’s Institute for Work and Health answer that question to help clarify their recent research.

Aviroop Biswas, a post-doctorate fellow, is the author of a 2015 study on the health effects of prolonged sitting. His findings concluded that workers who sit for more than eight hours a day are at higher risk for certain types of cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

“Most worrying”, Biswas says in the video, “are that the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes are nearly twice as high for people who sit for very long periods of the day.”

Peter Smith, a senior scientist at IWH, authored a 2017 study on prolonged standing on the job. His research revealed that workers who stand for long periods have a heart disease risk that is 2.2 times higher than “those who mainly sit on the job.”

“When it comes to physical activity levels, the opposite of prolonged sitting is not prolonged standing,” Smith said. “The opposite of prolonged sitting is moving.”

For employees who sit at work, the key to decreasing the health risks is getting up at regular intervals, Biswas said. In turn, workers who must stand should sit when they can, Smith added.

Biswas summarizes their message by saying workers should “sit when you need to, stand when you want to, and walk or move when you can.”