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Argument Against Prolonged Standing

Ask the average US citizen if sitting or standing is healthier, and you will probably hear that of course standing is healthier. It uses more calories and is exercise while sitting is relaxing. Among those who stand all day, you might hear a different answer.

Studies on standing are rare in the US, but in Europe are becoming more numerous. Definitions of prolonged standing vary from a low of 2 up to 5 hours. No study expected that a person would stand more than 5 hours in an 8 hour workday.

Like most injuries and problems related to ergonomics, there are multiple factors that play into the situation. For standing, they are often carrying, lifting, exerting force, bending, general back posture, shoe wear, and pre-existing physical conditions (like poor circulation, leg swelling, foot problems, joint damage [foot, ankle, knee, hip] and pregnancy). Different variations of factors were measured, but when standing was prolonged, all combinations showed significant indications of problems.

Studies focused on arthritis (such as Muraki,S et al.: Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Jun 15;61(6):779-86) indicate that prolonged standing is a factor in knee osteoarthritis and in bony changes in the lumbar back.

Other studies found that prolonged standing was related to:

So, it's safe to say that although standing has some benefits, prolonged standing may have some risks.

Working in a Standing Job

Some jobs by their nature, require prolonged standing. Generally this is not just standing, but moving around, either moving inventory, using tools, or getting materials. Walking is not as hard on your body as standing is

What to Do?

This reminds me of an article I read years ago. It was an interview with the actress Doris Day. She talked about the time on the set spent standing. Apparently, it was extensive. Her legs would swell and ache, her back would hurt, and by the time it was her turn in front of the camera, she could hardly move.

Her solution was to keep moving. She would constantly shift her weight from one foot to the other, actually taking what she called elephant steps, keeping her circulation active and decreasing the constant strain on joints, tendons and ligaments.

Similarly, I hurt my back once, fairly severly. I remember that the hardest thing to do was to stand in line at a checkout - even if it was for only a few minutes.


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