The Effects of Standing All Day - Is it Bad?

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By now most of us have heard that sitting all day at work is bad for your health. Since unplugging from the computer isn’t always an option at work, many offices have adapted by making sit-stand desks available so that employees have the option to change their position as needed. Despite the positive changes taking place some offices, large portions of the workforce never get the chance to sit. But is standing just as bad as sitting? Hairstylists, nurses, cashiers, warehouse employees and so many more people not only stand all day, but they often stand on hard concrete. Many people in these professions have reported lower back discomfort, sore legs, and aching feet among other issues.

Barbers Standing
How Bad Is It?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, jobs that require mostly standing are more harmful than jobs that require mostly sitting. Standing all day has been associated with a higher rate of heart disease, varicose veins, muscle fatigue, blood pooling in the legs, back pain, and many more negative health outcomes. So, if you can’t stand, and you can’t sit, what’s left? It now seems likely that the best option is to split your time; sitting and standing in irregular intervals with stretching breaks throughout the day.

What Are Your Choices?

And while some people have the opportunity to choose how they spend their time during the day, many don’t. If you absolutely can’t sit down and take breaks, it may be worth a small investment into one of the products out there meant to provide relief from the pressure of standing. Many of us already own an anti-fatigue mat, those squishy rubber mats that are usually found in kitchens and hair salons. They are relatively cheap and have been shown to reduce lower back pain caused by standing for long periods. One issue with them, however, is that they can’t follow you from room to room. They are stationary and require that you stay in one spot.

Another way to tackle the problem is with specialized footwear. There are a number of athletic shoes and sneakers that claim to help with pressure relief, but the truth is that a shoe is only as good as it’s insole. The cost of specialty shoes ranges but can often get into the $150-$200 range. You can also purchase your own insoles, such as these Protalus M-100s, to put into whatever shoes you already own. The best part is that you can swap them from shoe to shoe and they are more usually affordable than a new pair of shoes.

Group Stretching
Take A Stretch Break

If you have a proactive workplace, you may also decide to lead the charge on taking stretching breaks. Many work safety protocols already include this measure but unless you work for a large corporation or are part of a union, it might not be something that is currently practiced where you work.

Whatever you do to cope, the evidence is clear that our bodies were made to move. Everything is best in moderation and both sitting and standing are detrimental to our health when done for hours at a time. If you’re sitting or standing at your desk right now, take a moment to stretch it out and change positions, challenge your coworkers to join you, or just take a break and walk outside for a moment. We all need to deal with our work situations, but small changes can make big differences.

Sources: Mozes, Alan. “Standing All Day at Work? It May Take Toll on Health.” WebMD, WebMD, 28 July 2015, www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20150728/standing-all-day-at-work-it-may-take-toll-on-health#2.
Hutchinson, Alex. “Standing All Day Is Twice as Bad as Sitting for Your Heart.” Runner's World, Runner's World, 21 Oct. 2019, www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20860422/standing-all-day-is-twice-as-bad-as-sitting-for-your-heart/.
Sheep, www.sheep-mats.com/anti-fatigue-mats-really-help-battle-lower-back-pain-increase-work-productivity/.
Smith, et al. “Relationship Between Occupational Standing and Sitting and Incident Heart Disease Over a 12-Year Period in Ontario, Canada.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 11 Aug. 2017, academic.oup.com/aje/article/187/1/27/4081581.

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