Standing at Work: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

March 12, 2012
What’s good – and bad – about standing at work? Jenny Pynt, an ergonomics researcher at Charles Sturt University in Sydney, Australia, offered the good news first: prolonged standing uses more calories than sitting.

But, as many workers know, prolonged standing has its drawbacks. Prolonged standing can cause serious health problems, said Pynt, such as “low back pain and circulation problems in the legs, leading to blood clots in the lungs.”

Other health risks associated with prolonged standing, according to the study, include:

· 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.

“Those typically most impacted are factory workers, tellers, cashiers and others who must stand several hours each day to perform their work duties,” says JoAnne Boston, market development manager for Crown Mats and Matting
“If [health] problems have already developed, workers must see a physician. However, there are ways to prevent or minimize these problems.”

To minimize your risk, Boston offers these suggestions:

· Combine standing and sitting. This helps rest joints and can prevent many of the other health problems noted in the study.
· If sitting while working is not an option, sit down during breaks.
· When possible, gently stretch and massage joints and muscles in the legs.
· Apply ice to painful areas if pain becomes excessive.

“Employers can also take steps to alleviate the problems of prolonged standing for their staff,” Boston notes. Using products such as anti-fatigue mats have proved valuable in prolonged standing work situations, she said.

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