If you thought that you are the only person who might be standing for longer hours every day, you are in for a surprise: statistics indicate that more than half of the world’s employees spend 75% of their working day on their feet. This 75% is made up of everyone; from those working in agriculture and assembly lines to retail.
Is standing for long periods of time without rest good for your health? Studies have found that standing for long periods of time has both short term and long term effects on your health.
The long-term effects of standing for too long
When veins become twisted and enlarged, they are referred to as varicose veins. Varicose veins often times occur within the ankles and the feet of the person who is affected. But how does standing for longer periods of time lead to the enlargement of veins?
When standing, the force of gravity tends to push blood to the lower parts of the body, but the body still pushes it up so that it can reach the upper parts. As the blood is pumped up, the veins have valves which prevent this blood from going backwards. However, standing for longer periods will weaken these valves, and in the worst case scenario, fail, and thus blood will no longer be prevented from going backwards as a result of gravity. As gravity pushes blood back into the legs and ankles, it causes the veins to expand so as to accommodate the extra blood. If one stands even longer, they risk being hospitalized as a result of varicose veins.
Naturally, people are required to walk with the right posture as a result of their spines being neutral. However, when standing for a long period of time, slouching occurs. This means that the spine is no longer neutral, thus leading to an improper walking posture by those who are affected. Slouching can also occur as a result of joint pain, also caused by standing for longer periods of time.
Compression of the Joints
Standing for longer periods of time places a lot of pressure and weight on the joints of the ankles, knees, hips and feet. Because the joints are not moving, normal lubrication is reduced, and the cushioning of the synovial joints is removed, thus causing them to tear. Because of the effect of the pressure and tearing of the joints, a tremendous amount of pain can be felt. This can also lead to a lot of knee pain.
It is indeed true that standing for longer periods of time does lead to cardiovascular disorders. Standing for so long changes the proper distribution of blood in the extremities (especially by men). This causes the blood to pool, thus reducing the circulation blood plasma volume. This is a problem because it can lead to an imbalance in the flow of blood within organ tissue (hemodynamic changes). In the long run, hemodynamic change leads to something called atherosclerotic progression. Basically, this is the development of fatty, plaque-like substances on the inner walls of our arteries. This is a quick path to coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease.
When muscles are kept in the constantly stressed position of standing, they are exhausted and this leads to pain and swelling in the lower back, ankles, feet, and legs. In the work environment, this can lead to worker injuries and fatigue. Many studies have also confirmed that the body experiences muscle fatigue after 5 hours, and persists for more than 30 minutes after the end of the work day.
Standing or walking for more than 6 hours a day can lead to preterm births, low birth weights as well as high blood pressure for the expectant mother. More studies even reveal that working for more than 25 hours a week can lead to slower rates of fetal growth (http://www.livescience.com/36507-pregnancy-working-baby-growth.html). Mothers who stand for long stretches of time can also experience back pain, which has been found to be dangerous to their overall health when they are pregnant.
All of that standing can lead to constant back pain, knee pain, neck pain and joint pain. As a result, the overall productivity of the individual is reduced. Who can (or wants to) be very productive while they’re in pain?
What are the short-term effects of standing for longer hours?
This is associated with a significant number of problems in the short term. It may lead to leg cramps, back pains, knee pain, neck pain and overall joint pain. Individuals who stand for longer periods of time tend to experience a lot of fatigue at the end of the day, with muscle fatigue being prolonged for more than half an hour after standing. Standing for longer periods of time also leads to neck and shoulder stiffness.
What can I do about this?
If you are affected by the effects of standing for longer periods of time at work, it is not all lost. Even though there might be no real prevention for standing, one can still mitigate the effects. One of the suggested ways is to move around and keep changing positions throughout the day. For example, one needs to avoid standing in one position for more than 8 minutes at a time. Small exercises during the day to strengthen the tissues and stretching to improve stability go a long way to help. Regular stretching exercises, planned breaks, work rotation, or the use of dynamic activities can all alleviate the effects of standing for long periods of time. For those who are able to, alternating between standing and sitting can also help.
The easiest way to implement this is to set routine breaks every 30 minutes, where you can move around, stretch, or sit down. If you plan for them, breaks shouldn’t reduce productivity.
Choosing the right footwear can also help. Apart from supporting the foot, the shoes should have shock absorbing cushions. For the floors that you spend most of your time standing on, it is always a good idea to have cork or rubber mats to cushion your weight (make sure they have grip underneath!).
There are also some exercises that you can do to help yourself deal with standing for so many hours. The following are some of the recommended ones:
Alternating Knee Flexion
This is achieved by bending your knee and trying to touch your heel to your buttocks with one leg and then the other, without going beyond your natural range of motion. This helps in loosening up your quadriceps, which are the four major muscles that are in front of the thighs.
Figure-8 Hip Rotations
Try to circle your hips in the figure 8 motion. This helps with preventing both hip tightness and blood stagnation in the lower body by shifting your balance from one side to the other.
Try to kick an imaginary ball with you the inside of your foot. This especially helps loosen the origin connection points of your buttocks, which also is the largest muscle in the body. Since they can become tight as a result of prolonged standing, a few kicks on each side can prevent them from being tight.
Doing active hamstring stretches helps to activate the hamstrings. You can achieve this by sticking your buttocks out while keeping your back flat and rocking back on your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent. Squeeze the inside of your thighs together without moving the knees and reach your chin forward. This stretch provides immediate relief to your hamstrings.
If you want to try a quick downward dog stretch, place both hands shoulder width apart and level on a wall. Place one foot forward and bend the knee so that the knee is directly over the ankle. The rear leg should be straight. You should also be able to feel the rear calf muscles stretching. Also, try to bring your thighs together by activating the inner thighs without moving the knees.
Listen, standing for so many hours every day is sure to cause issues but you don’t have to just accept the consequences. There are many methods available to you to lessen the negative impact on your health. Don’t let the worst-case scenario be YOUR case. Start taking action today to improve your health.
One of the best ways to relieve the pressure of standing for long periods of time is losing weight. These two articles cover important information in regards to weight/fat loss, give them a read: How “Spot-Treating” The Fat On Your Belly, Arms, & Thighs Is The Wrong Approach, The Only Guaranteed Way To Lose Belly Fat.
How long do you typically spend on your feet? Are you tracking your steps? If so, how many do you typically take a day? Leave a comment below!