Do you sit at a desk for hours at a time at work? Hunched and staring cross-eyed at a screen all day? Or maybe you’re always standing on the job? Feet planted in one place at a counter or checkout line, leaning for relief when the supervisor isn’t looking?
The issue of standing verses sitting has become something of a hot topic in recent years, some going as far as to say that sitting is the new smoking. Anyone has a job that involves sitting all day like I do know what a pain it can be. But for anyone who’s had a job that involves standing for several hours at a time (like I have as well) knows that coming home to sore feet every day isn’t exactly an appealing alternative. So what exactly are the risks associated with sitting and standing, and how do we sidestep them?
After some digging I came across this comprehensive study by Cornell University’s Ergonomics Department, which cites various findings and sums up the complications associated with an excess of either sitting or standing for any length of time.
According to the study, prolonged periods of sitting (approximately more than one hour at a time) causes the bodies metabolic processes to reduce to break-down of fat in body, causing a build-up. However, sitting has been noted as having a beneficial effect of fine-motor control. Craftsman, writers, even medical personnel that need a study hand to do their work should consider making sitting their default work position.
On the other end of things, standing in excess has been found to be problematic for other reasons. Standing is more tiring, requiring more energy from the body and making you more prone to fatigue. It can also be over burdening to the heart, as the heart needs to exert more effort to pump blood to the legs. Standing can even and cause varicose veins in the legs and feet, as well as the general soreness we’re all too familiar with.
In my case, I sit at a desk (which is too short for me) in an adjustable chair. I keep my abdomen at level with the desk (which you’re supposed to do), and keep my monitor elevated with a box. Not exactly the most high-end set-up, but it gets the job done. When I catch myself sitting too still for too long I get up and take a short stroll or just stand and stretch in place. Anything’s better than the alternative. I’d thought about getting myself an adjustable desk but can’t justify the price tag when standing and stretching my legs every half hour and a cardboard box are producing the same effect for like, .05% of the cost.
This is a workplace issue that doesn’t have exactly the same solution for everyone so the best thing you can do is to know your limits and just listen to your body. If something starts to hurt, change things up but note how long it took to notice the pain. This way, you can be more proactive and switch to a sit or stand before the pain starts.