Good and Bad Effects of Standing at Work
Prolonged standing has both benefits and risks
Doubtless, you've seen the mounting evidence associating the time you spend sitting each day with the risk of heart disease and ailments of the spine, shoulder and hips. However, too much standing at work can also cause serious health problems, such as low back pain, circulation problems in the legs, and blood clots in the lungs.
Jenny Pynt, an ergonomics researcher at Charles Sturt University in Sydney, Australia, confirms that, compared to the sedentary desk jockey, those who work in a standing position enjoy numerous benefits, including using more muscles, burning more calories, reducing weight gain, alleviating neck and shoulder strain, and improving memory and concentration.
However, Pynt's research reports other health risks associated with the prolonged standing common among factory workers, bank tellers, cashiers and others who must stand several hours each day to perform their work duties:
- Pooling of the blood in the legs, with sluggish return of blood to the heart.
- Swelling of the legs.
- Varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps.
- Preterm birth and spontaneous abortion in pregnant women.
- Cardiovascular disease, especially for those standing in a fixed posture.
Longer standing is definitely not suitable for pregnant women, people with severe obesity or other physical difficulties that would complicate standing.
Given the dangers of prolonged sitting or standing on the job, scientific papers on safety and ergonomics in the workplace usually recommend regularly switching between rightly balanced work positions as needed. In other words, the ideal office should allow us to work both in a sitting and standing position and to switch these as easily as possible.
These are some options for combining sitting and standing:
- Two separate desks for sitting and standing (takes more space)
- Single desk with adjustable height (great but expensive)
- Single standing desk + elevated chair (optimal solution)
If combining sitting and standing at work is not an option, try to do the alternate activity during breaks. When possible, gently stretch and massage joints and muscles in the legs. Apply ice to painful areas if pain becomes excessive. Consult with your physician or health care advisor about your change of work habits to determine the optimal solution to your unique health needs.