Too Much Sitting Is Bad—But so Is Too Much Standing!
By Jennifer Busick
Thursday, August 13th, 2015
Our waists are getting bigger, our blood pressure is increasing, and our glucose metabolism is deteriorating, even if we are getting plenty of exercise. The person who bikes to and from work but spends 8 hours on the job sitting in front of a screen suffers these ill effects just like the coworker who commutes by car. The obvious solution would be to have workers stand up, right? Standing desks, treadmill desks, and similar solutions have become popular in the wake of the bad news about sitting. Unfortunately, it may not be quite that simple—prolonged standing is also hazardous to workers’ health. Keep reading to find out what too much of either will do to your body.
Health Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Workers who stand all day aren’t doing much better, though. In December 2014, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's science blog published an article on the ergonomic harm done to workers who spend all day on their feet, unable to sit down. Nurses and retail workers demonstrate in their sore feet, back pain, swollen legs, and increased cardiovascular symptoms that standing all day is not the antidote to sitting all day.
It's been all over the news in recent years: Americans sit too much, and it's killing us. We sit in our cars, we sit at the office, and we sit in front of our computers, television screens, video games, tablets, and phones—and while we're sitting, our metabolisms are changing.
Don’t Sit All Day—But Don’t Stand All Day Either! How to Mix Up the Workday
Health Effects of Prolonged Standing
To build up your workers' level of movement, consider whether you can:
Rewrite job descriptions.
Revise job descriptions to give workers greater mobility during the day. If your workers tend to work at a single workstation, rewrite their job
descriptions to give them some walkaround inspection duties so they work in different areas with different physical stressors. For example, could the assembly worker who sits at a workstation in the morning work in the warehouse in the afternoon?
Provide adjustable workstations.
It's not a great leap from the adjustable workstation that accommodates workers of different heights to the sit/stand workstation that enables workers to change positions during the day.
Workers who stand may feel they can't take breaks because of the nature of their job. Workers who sit may be tempted to take breaks without changing
position—checking social media at their desks without moving, for example. Emphasize to workers the importance of taking breaks not just from their job but also from the
physical demands it makes on their bodies. Encourage workers to listen to their bodies—if they're feeling sore, they should change position, take a short break, or stretch.
Workers who stand at their job should sit during their breaks; those who sit should get up and walk around. Teach all workers stretching techniques that will help
maintain circulation, flexibility, and reduce soreness.
Educate workers about the hazards.
Because the hazards of sitting are cumulative, workers need to know how their off-the-job activities affect their overall risk. Encourage
workers to be aware of how much time they spend sitting and to take steps to reduce it through changes both on and off the job.
In a 2013 review of literature published in Harefuah, the journal of the Israel Medical Association, the authors found a consistently demonstrated relationship between sedentary behavior and health risks.
The problem is compounded by the fact that sitting doesn’t just take place at work; workers sit in their cars on the way to and from the workplace, they sit at work, and they sit for recreational activities like watching television, movies, and sporting events.
Researchers found that prolonged sitting—for a total of 8 or 9 hours per day, including working, television time, and time in a car—is strongly correlated with:
Prolonged standing—for more than 4 hours without a break, especially in a single spot—is associated with: