Office Workers Aren't The Only Ones Suffering From Sitting All Day

Truck drivers may have it worst of all.

Workers toiling away at a desk aren't the only ones suffering from the effects of sitting for hours on end.

As wellness becomes a stronger focus in the modern workplace, some are calling sitting the "new smoking." Many have extolled the virtues of desks that encourage the user to stand or walk, as well as of meetings spent taking a stroll rather than sitting around a conference table.

My colleague Jacqueline Howard recently wrote about a new study, published in the July issue of the journal Experimental Physiology, which noted that a sedentary lifestyle reduces blood flow to the lower legs. Taking a brisk, 10-minute walk can help mitigate this effect, the study found.

That's all good, and, well, well.

But as the study's lead author points out, the health risks of sitting for prolonged periods of time are not isolated to office workers.

"The prevalence of sedentary behavior in the workplace and increased daily sitting time are common to many professions," Dr. Jaume Padilla, the study's lead author, told Howard. "This research not only has applications for employees who sit at desks, but also for truck drivers, airline passengers and anyone else who is seated for an extended time." (Emphasis added.)

Consider the bus drivers, the train conductors, the pilots, the front-desk security guards and the police dispatchers of the world. The list goes on.

But truck drivers may have it the worst. 

Irregular hours, stress and limited access to healthy snacks all degrade drivers' health. Restricted movement -- truck driving is, by nature, one of the most sedentary jobs -- only worsens that problem. Long-haul truck drivers have greater risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity compared to average U.S. workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2006 study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that, among white males, truck drivers also had higher rates of smoking -- at 67 percent -- than members of any other profession.

Some of the trucking industry's health woes are difficult to correct, and it may be difficult for drivers to make time to pull over. But the Experimental Physiology study indicates that on the whole, a 10-minute walk may be one of the most universally useful tips we've found thus far for combatting the effects of sitting.