STUDY: Standing for Too Long is Just as Bad as Sitting
By Space Coast Daily // August 30, 2019
We’ve all heard of the harmful effects of sitting for too long by now, from increased risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, to even death. To mitigate the negative effects, solutions such as standing desks have been proposed.
The question is: is standing really the solution to the “sitting disease”?
Standing Too Long is Not Great Either
According to Peter Smith, a senior scientist from the Institute for Work and Health, standing for too long is just as bad for your health as sitting, and in some instances, worse.
Doubles Risk of Developing Heart Disease
A good example to prove this point is this recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which shows that prolonged standing carries twice the risk for heart disease.
For this research, scientists examined the risk of heart disease among more than 7000 workers working across a variety of occupations in Ontario. The study took place over a period of 12 years.
In the end, they discovered that individuals who stood for long hours at their jobs were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease compared to those who sat for a long time.
In fact, the risk of heart disease among these respondents (6.6%) was fairly similar to those who smoked on a daily basis (5.8%) as well as those who were diagnosed with obesity (6.9%).
Increases Blood Pooling
Developing heart disease is not the only risk associated with prolonged standing. Curtin University carried out a research to examine health risks for adults who stood longer than 2 hours when working.
They found that these individuals experienced an increase in whole-body discomfort- especially in the lower back and lower limbs- and a deterioration in their reaction time and mental functioning.
This article published by the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety also seems to support this study.
It claims that working in an upright position causes blood pooling around the legs and feet as well as an inflammation of veins. This can lead to chronic varicose veins.
Causes Long-Term Muscle Fatigue
Another study suggests that extended standing causes long-term health implications over time.
According to Maria Gabriela Garcia, one of the authors of the study, long-term muscle fatigue is one of the possible health effects. Unfortunately, it’s not given the attention it deserves.
Surprisingly, this study examined participants who took regular breaks and a half-hour lunch breaks in a typical 5-hour workday. Thus, this showed that even if rest breaks are included, workers still face the risk of developing long-term muscle fatigue from prolonged standing.
Reducing the Risk of Prolonged Standing
There are certain industries where workers have to stand for long hours. Cooks, waiters, janitors, carpenters and cashiers are just a few of the workers whose work involves standing for long periods.
While such individuals may not be in a position to change the nature of their jobs, there are measures they can take to reduce the adverse effects associated with prolonged standing.
Maintaining a proper standing posture is one thing that can help. The American Chiropractic Association describes good standing posture as:
- Keeping a shoulder-width distance between your feet
- Supporting most of your body weight on the balls of your feet
- Allowing your arms to hang naturally on the sides of your body
- Standing upright with your shoulders pulled back
- Keeping your head in a neutral position, that is, it should not be leaning forward, backward or to the side
- Shifting your weight regularly
Talk to your supervisor about sitting beaks as well. If you work in an office setting where the reverse is true- you’re sitting for too long- petition for desks that are height adjustable to allow you to alternate between sitting and standing.
Perform Regular Exercises
If your job involves being on your feet for many hours, another thing you can do is adopt an exercise regimen.
More specifically, you should focus on physical activities that reinforce your lower body and boost your endurance.
Here are a few examples:
- Start off in an upright position and then take one large step forward. As you do this, bend the other knee but be sure to maintain your balance.
- Resume the initial standing position and repeat this movement on the other leg.
- Place a chair in front of you to offer support as you perform this routine.
- Next, stand with your legs hip-width apart and your feet flat on the surface.
- Rise up on your toes while ensuring that you don’t bend your knees
- Gently lower yourself back to the initial position
- Start off with your legs shoulder-width apart
- Bend from your hip point and squat down. As you perform this step, ensure your back is upright and your feet are flat on the ground
- Straighten and resume your starting position
Both prolonged standing and sitting cause numerous health risks. Extended sitting increases one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
But on the other end of the spectrum, prolonged standing also poses risks such as heart disease, long-term muscle fatigue and discomfort.
If your job requires you to stand for long hours, be sure to maintain a proper posture and exercise regularly to minimize the risks associated with prolonged standing.
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