There’s been a lot of interest in the effects of prolonged sitting at work and how it can be harmful to our health. However, we don’t see or read as much about the effects of prolonged standing. Despite past studies linking prolonged standing to various health risks, not a lot of research has been devoted to this area. Below are examples of physical ailments a person may develop due to prolonged standing at work:
- musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
- chronic back pain
- cardiovascular disease
The problems caused by standing too long
The body uses up a lot of muscles and energy to maintain an upright position. Because of how your muscles are constrained while standing, blood circulation is also reduced, which may lead to a lack of blood supply to the crucial areas of your body that need oxygen.
Excessive standing can lead to inflammation in the veins. If left untreated, this inflammation can result in varicose veins, which can be a chronic source of pain.
How to reduce the risks of prolonged standing
Standing in itself isn’t the problem, but standing for hours on end because your job requires it can cause health issues. Some workplaces do allow for some flexibility and give employees the opportunity to move around, thus improving blood circulation and reducing strain on the lower body.
So if you have a job that involves a lot of standing, below are 5 ways you can avoid the health risks associated with this activity.
1. Take frequent breaks or suggest a change in routine.
Incorporating regular breaks from standing, such as when switching to other tasks, can do wonders in alleviating the effects of long-term fatigue.
A break doesn’t mean you stop being productive. You can talk to your manager and ask for other tasks or responsibilities that can engage other parts of your body, as well as your mind. If you can make your manager understand that your job, which requires standing for too long, is a potential health risk and can lead to loss of productivity, they’ll be more likely to understand and offer you a change of routine.
2. Maintain good posture.
Grandma had the right idea all those times she told us to stop slouching. Apparently, not standing properly is also a health risk and may put us on the receiving end of a host of issues such as lower back pain and leg trouble.
Jobs that require carrying objects or lifting them from the ground should always be done with the proper technique and posture, which entails the following:
- Balancing the weights evenly between the two arms
- Distributing the bodyweight evenly between two feet
- Keeping a straight spine with no arching
- Evenly positioned shoulders
- Keeping the chin parallel to the floor
3. Wear the right footwear.
Your footwear should also contribute to easing tension on the leg muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A good pair of shoes with the right arching can provide ample support to your soles, which also helps you feel more comfortable while standing on the job. Consider buying sneakers, professional clogs, or even running shoes that encourage blood circulation as opposed to tight, uncomfortable shoes or sandals.
Functional socks such as the Burlix standing over the calf sock can also prevent fluid buildup in the legs that may cause varicose veins.
4. Change positions while standing.
Varying the way you stand helps engage the other parts of your legs, which also encourages blood circulation and prevents fatigue. This is called “active standing” and has several benefits to workers. As mentioned above, merely standing (or sitting) isn’t a problem. It’s when you don’t move around enough that can lead to health issues.
Increasing foot comfort by using mats (rubberized are good) and footstools is another way of reducing pressure on your feet. If you don’t have a footstool, periodically letting your foot rest on a pile of books and alternating achieves the same effect.
5. Stretch and exercise.
A good stretch and a few minutes of exercise are simple yet effective ways to prevent work-related ailments such as MSDs and chronic pain for both standing and sitting jobs.
Stretching doesn’t have to take a lot of time; even a 4-minute stretching break every hour makes a difference. Here are a couple of nice stretches you can do practically anywhere and anytime:
- The one-arm hug
- Reach for the sky
- Calf raises
- Stretching your triceps over your head
- Shoulder and chest stretches
- Wrist flexing and extending
- Hamstring curls
For exercises, you can do the following every 2-3 hours to keep your blood flowing:
- Gluteal squeeze
- Calf raises
- Desk pushups
- Side lunges
- Marching in place
The bottom line is that any work carries some risks, especially if executed poorly and without the proper outfit for it. With the suggestions shared above, however, you should be able to reduce and prevent physical issues as you tackle your standing job.
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