Anybody who has ever worked a job where they spend most of the day on their feet is well-aware of the physical toll it can take.
However, recent studies indicate that sore feet, a sore back, and other common aches and pains could pale in comparison to a much bigger threat for workers accustomed to standing all day: a dramatically increased risk of heart disease.
Any workers’ compensation attorney knows that workers with active jobs often face different risks than those with sedentary jobs. But with more information pointing to risks well beyond what active workers might expect, it is becoming more important than ever for employers to examine physical activity levels among workers.
Study links heart attack, heart failure and standing at work
According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, workers who predominantly stand on-the-job are at a twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or congestive heart failure than workers who primarily sit at work.
The study, conducted over a 12-year period, tracked 7,300 workers age 34-74 with different personal, health, and work factors. Using Canadian Community Health Survey results, researchers compiled information about each worker’s job to estimate the amount of sitting, standing, and walking they were doing in a typical work day.
Researchers determined that nine percent of participants primarily stand at work, compared to 37 percent with sedentary jobs. They then used administrative health records to then identify participants developing forms of heart disease over twelve years between 2003 and 2015.
During this period, researchers found that 3.4 percent of participants developed heart disease. Without taking any other risk factors into account, those with jobs primarily involving standing faced a 6.6 percent risk of developing heart disease, compared to 2.8 percent among people with sedentary jobs.
Furthermore, researchers found that after taking into account a number of different factors – age, gender, health conditions, and behaviors such as smoking and drinking – the risk of heart disease remained twice as high for people who stood on-the-job.
How can employers manage heart health-related risks at work?
In spite of research indicating the adverse effects of too much physical activity at work, researchers agree that a combination of standing, sitting, and walking is beneficial for heart health.
Oftentimes, promoting that balance only works one way, with sedentary workers regularly being told the benefit of taking breaks to stand up and walk around. Researchers also said that employers need to become more cognizant of the needs of workers who predominantly stand, encouraging those with active jobs to sit when they can.
Researchers also said that they believe that prevention programs focusing solely on physical activity may not be enough to negotiate heart disease risk and noted that other factors, such as those relating to stress levels experienced on-the-job, need to be taken into account as well.
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