In simpler times, your office chair was an innocent piece of furniture. It cradled your cheeks while you strived for Inbox Zero and hugged your back while you hustled through overtime.
Then the headlines rolled in: sitting is the new smoking. Health experts everywhere slammed the sedentary lifestyle as a cause of myriad serious maladies, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and overall mortality.
Suddenly the wellness world was all about standing desks. Zealots preached a convincing gospel: standing at work can help you lose weight, boost your mood and alertness, improve your posture, reduce chronic pain, and lower your risk of developing various diseases. Health nuts were quick to swig the Kool-Aid.
But here we are a year or two after the hype, and guess what? Science is back to shatter your hopes and dreams for health once again, because apparently standing is killing you too.
At least three studies have found that prolonged standing can cause blood to pool in the legs, create excess pressure in the veins, hamper the body’s ability to detoxify itself, raise oxidative stress, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have linked extended standing to chronic back pain and musculoskeletal disorders.
And here’s where it gets really harrowing. Researchers in Canada studied the standing/sitting habits of more than 7,000 workers in Ontario over the course of 12 years. They found that workers who primarily stand at work – think cashiers, bank tellers, and cooks – were actually twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who primarily sit.
So yes, sitting may be lethal, but standing might actually more lethal.
“In fact, the incidence of heart disease among those respondents who stood a lot at work (6.6 per cent) was similar to the incidence of heart disease among workers who smoked on a daily basis (5.8 per cent) or those who were obese (6.9 per cent),” wrote Peter Smith, a researcher on the study.
The key to longevity, according to the study, is to strike a healthy balance between sitting and standing at work – don’t confine yourself to a desk chair all day, but take a seat when your legs start to get tired.
Or just pound Big Macs and smoke a pack a day, because life is meaningless and nothing matters anyway.