Standing at Work Is Just as Unhealthy as Smoking Cigarettes Daily, Study Says

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An art installation of 857 empty school desks stands at the National Mall, near the Washington Monument, on June 20, 2012. Reuters

Sitting at a desk all day will slowly eat away at one’s health—countless studies over the years have reaffirmed this common assumption.

Standing desks have become a popular solution to the sedentary lifestyle global workforces have created, but unless they have an option for sitting, they may not be a much healthier option. In fact, those who typically stand at work for prolonged periods are more likely to face cardiovascular and other health risk factors, according to a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Related: Yes, Your Desk Job is Killing You, Study Confirms

Researchers tracking more than 7,000 study participants in Ontario, Canada, within a 12-year period found that people who often stood at work were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease, compared to those who typically sat throughout their shifts.

"In fact, the incidence of heart disease among those respondents who stood a lot at work (6.6 percent) was similar to the incidence of heart disease among workers who smoked on a daily basis (5.8 percent) or those who were obese (6.9 percent)," Peter Smith, one of the researchers for the study at the University of Ontario, wrote on Wednesday. 

Jobs found to require prolonged standing included grocery store clerks, bank tellers and line cooks, the study’s authors noted. But people who mostly sit during their day jobs (secretaries, drivers, and writers, for example), are also likely to face health problems later in life.

A study published earlier this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine found a direct link between risk of early death and prolonged sitting, as Newsweek previously reported. "I think the simple message is sit less, move more, and move frequently," study co-author Keith Diaz wrote in an email.

Companies should seek to prevent the long-term health problems standing all day may cause workers, the same way workplaces seek to reduce other behaviors harmful to health, like smoking in offices.

"Luckily for workplaces, in the case of prolonged standing, there are interventions that are known to be effective and readily available," Smith writes. "They’re called chairs."