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:
- Joint changes in the feet, knees, hips and spine
- Decreased blood flow to major muscle groups
- This increases the chance of muscle strain in the legs, back and neck
- This can also lead to chronic muscle fatigue
- There may be related degeneration of tendons and ligaments
- Related to decreased blood flow may be pooling of blood in the feel and legs resulting in swelling and/or pain
- There is also frequently loss of joint alignment, especially in the feet.
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.
- Best of course, is to sit down and elevate your feet for a minute or so every hour.
- If you are given the option of a stool at work, try to use it occasionally to alternate your postion away from standing, even if you only perch on the edge.
- If you get a chance to walk, take it
- Make opportunities to move. Instead of reaching for something, walk over to it and walk back.
- Try to unweight your legs now and then. If there is a short ledge or footstool available, place one foot on it keeping the other on the floor. Then use the other. This simple exercise can help prevent many a back strain.
This is truly a case of THE BEST POSITION IS THE NEXT POSITION
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