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:
Common Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Standing:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs): These include a range of conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints, leading to pain and discomfort.
- Chronic Back Pain: Prolonged standing, especially with poor posture, can lead to lower and upper back pain.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Standing for long periods can affect blood circulation, potentially increasing heart disease risks.
The Problems Caused by Standing too Long
Standing requires significant muscular effort and can reduce blood circulation, leading to muscle fatigue and discomfort. In addition, prolonged standing without movement can cause blood to pool in the legs and feet, leading to inflammation and the development of varicose veins.
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 Make a Routine Change
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:
Upper Body and Arm Stretches:
- Shoulder Shrugs: Raise your shoulders towards your ears and then relax them down. This helps relieve tension in the shoulders and neck.
- Arm Circles: Extend your arms and make small to large circles to loosen the shoulder joints.
- Wrist Stretches: Extend your arm forward, palm up, and gently pull back on your fingers to stretch the wrist and forearm.
Back and Torso Stretches:
- Torso Twists: Stand with feet hip-width apart and gently twist your torso from side to side. This helps to loosen the lower back and engage the core muscles.
- Forward Bends: From a standing position, gently bend forward at the waist, keeping your knees slightly bent, to stretch the lower back and hamstrings.
Lower Body Stretches:
- Quadriceps Stretch: While standing, bend one knee and hold your ankle to stretch the front of the thigh.
- Calf Stretch: Place one foot behind you, pressing the heel to the floor, and lean forward slightly to stretch the calf muscles.
- Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and perform a basic squat to strengthen thighs and glutes.
- Leg Lifts: Lift one leg at a time to the side, front, or back to improve balance and strengthen the leg muscles.
- Standing Pelvic Tilts: Tilt your pelvis forward and back to engage and strengthen your abdominal muscles.
- Side Bends: Stand with feet apart and bend sideways at the waist, sliding your hand down your thigh, to strengthen oblique muscles.
- One-Legged Stand: Lift one foot off the ground and balance on the other foot for as long as comfortable, then switch. This improves overall balance and core strength.
Foot and Ankle Exercises:
- Toe Raises: Lift your toes while keeping your heels on the ground to strengthen the muscles of the feet and lower legs.
- Ankle Circles: Lift one foot off the ground and rotate your ankle to improve flexibility and reduce stiffness.
Implementing Stretch and Exercise Routines:
- Regular Intervals: Incorporate these stretches and exercises into your daily routine, ideally every hour or two, to break the monotony of standing and stimulate blood flow.
- On-the-Job Implementation: Many of these exercises can be done discreetly at your workstation, ensuring you stay active even during busy periods.
- Post-Work Routines: Engage in a more comprehensive stretching and exercise routine after work to counteract the day’s physical strains and maintain overall fitness.
By incorporating these specific stretches and exercises into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce the discomfort and health risks associated with prolonged standing, while also boosting your overall physical well-being and work performance.
The key takeaway from managing the challenges of a job that requires prolonged standing is the importance of a proactive and balanced approach to workplace health. It’s not just about enduring the hours on your feet, but about integrating strategies that can mitigate the potential negative impacts on your body.
Emphasize Balance in Your Routine: Balance is crucial. It’s not just about standing less, but also about moving more and incorporating varied physical activities into your work routine. Regularly alternate between standing, sitting, and walking. This variety in posture and movement helps prevent strain and fatigue.
Prioritize Workplace Ergonomics: Advocate for ergonomic solutions in your workplace. This includes adjustable desks, supportive footwear, anti-fatigue mats, and properly arranged workstations. An ergonomic workplace design is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for health and productivity.
Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Outside of work, engage in exercises that strengthen your core and leg muscles, as these are crucial for maintaining good posture and reducing the strain of standing. Activities like yoga, pilates, or light strength training can complement your routine and enhance your body’s ability to handle physical stress.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to what your body tells you. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, don’t ignore these signals. Adjust your standing habits, seek ergonomic solutions, or consult a healthcare professional. Remember, early intervention can prevent more serious health issues down the line.
Educate and Advocate: Educate yourself and your colleagues about the importance of these practices. Sharing knowledge can lead to a more supportive and health-conscious work environment. Advocate for workplace health initiatives or wellness programs that recognize the importance of taking breaks, stretching, and moving around.
Holistic Health Approach: Remember, addressing workplace health is not just about physical measures. It’s also important to maintain hydration, follow a nutritious diet, and manage stress. A holistic approach to health, considering both physical and mental well-being, is essential for long-term job satisfaction and performance.
By adopting these practices and advocating for a healthier work environment, you can significantly improve your comfort and health at a job that requires standing. It’s about creating a sustainable work lifestyle that supports your physical and mental well-being, ensuring that you can perform your best without sacrificing your health.
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