Most careers fall under two distinct categories – sitting at work and standing at work. Most people who work in the hospitality industry spend most of their time standing, while those whose career involves working with a computer spend most of their time at work sitting. There is nothing wrong with working while standing or sitting. But just like everything else in life, each mode of working has its good side and its bad side.
Sitting at Work
Accountants, drivers, customer care representatives, insurance sales agents, office clerks and all individuals who work in front of a computer, spend most of their time sitting. As much as sitting at work gets all the bad press, it also has advantages.
Pros of Sitting at Work
When you are seated, there is minimal pressure and strain exerted on your legs and feet. As a result, your joints will suffer less. Furthermore, working while seated minimizes the risk of developing varicose veins, compared to someone who spends the entire day standing on one spot. Also, if your work involves sitting in front of a computer, then you will find it easier to concentrate while seated, compared to working when standing.
Cons of Sitting at Work
There is nothing wrong with sitting while working. However, prolonged sitting can lead to various health issues. Whether you spend most of your time sitting on a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen, sitting all day comes with the following health risks:
- Organ damage: Sitting for long periods can lead to serious organ damage. When you sit for long periods, most of the muscles in your body are inactive, which means you will burn fewer fats. Consequently, blood will start flowing slowly due to the inactivity, which may lead to the buildup of fatty acids in your heart. Furthermore, prolonged sitting can lead to elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure as well as various cardiovascular disorders. Also, the pancreas may produce excess insulin, which can contribute to diabetes.
- Unhealthy weight gain: As noted above, you only burn a handful of calories when you are seated, compared to someone who is moving around. Studies have shown that obese or overweight people tend to sit for more hours per day compared to people who have healthy body weight. In short, the more hours per day that you spend seated, the higher your risk of obesity.
- Hips and back problems: Your back and hips will not support your body when you sit for long periods. As a result, your hip flexor muscles will shorten, leading to various problems with the hip joints. Prolonged sitting can also result in back problems, especially for people who adopt a poor sitting posture. Poor sitting posture can lead to compression in the discs of the spine, which may result in premature degeneration, among other issues.
- Varicose veins: Prolonged sitting may cause blood to pool in the legs, leading to spider veins or varicose veins. If they remain untreated, varicose veins may lead to serious complications such as deep vein thrombosis.
- Weak bones and muscles: When you are standing, your leg, back, and abdominal muscles are tightened and tensed. But when you sit, those muscles are largely unused. And if this trend continues for long periods, you will eventually end up with a weak core.
Mitigating the Risks of Prolonged Sitting
People whose careers involve sitting the entire day face various health risks such as obesity, cardiovascular disorders as well as weak bones and muscles. However, you can still maintain a healthy lifestyle by incorporating various interventions in your life. If your work involves sitting all day, here are some effective measures that can help to minimize the health risks.
Take regular breaks
As noted earlier, sitting for long periods can take a massive toll on your body. Taking regular breaks will boost your focus and increase your productivity. During your breaks, you should take that time to stretch your back, legs, and neck.
Go the distance
Instead of using the elevator, you should take the stairs. Using the stairs will give your legs and feet some workout, which will in turn boost circulation. Also, you should incorporate some walking into your routine. Instead of driving all the way to work, you can instead park your car halfway and then walk the rest of the journey.
As much as your work may require you to sit in front of a computer the entire day, it doesn’t mean that you should remain rooted in the same spot all through. You should create time to move around the office so that your body can stretch. For example, instead of sending someone to fetch you something from another room, you should instead do it yourself.
Standing at Work
Nurses, chefs, dishwashers, meat cutters, packagers, floor managers, and bartenders spend most of their time on their feet. As much as standing while working may appear like an uncomfortable position, it also comes with some benefits.
Pros of Standing at Work
Helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain: Your body tends to burn more calories when you are standing or moving around as opposed to sitting all day. Therefore, you will find it easier to maintain healthy body weight, compared to someone who spends the entire day seated. Also, when you are standing with the right posture, blood will flow better in your body. As a result, your body tissues will remain adequately nourished while waste will be removed equally fast.
Helps to lower the risk of heart diseases: Apart from helping you to maintain healthy body weight, working while standing may improve your body’s cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Therefore, if your career involves working while standing, then you are a lower risk of suffering from heart-related illnesses, compared to someone who spends the entire day seated.
Stronger muscles: Working while standing helps to strengthen your leg, foot and ankle muscles. It will also help to strengthen your core since you will mostly be using your abdominal muscles to maintain an upright posture. Standing with the right posture will also help to tone your leg and back muscles.
Cons of Standing at Work
While standing at work will keep your body active, prolonged standing on the same spot can lead to serious health complications. If your work involves standing from morning to evening, you may experience the following health complications:
Keeping your body in an upright position requires a considerable amount of effort. It also puts a significant amount of pressure on various parts of your body. To reduce this pressure, some workers end up slouching or adopting poor postures, forcing their body to assume an unnatural position. The combined effect of poor posture and pressure on various parts of the body can lead to back pain.
When you are standing, gravity tends to pull the blood downwards towards the lower extremities of the body. However, the body’s mechanisms help to pump blood upwards, thus maintaining optimal circulation around the body. But after prolonged, extensive standing, the valves that help to push blood upwards, eventually become weak and fail. Once this happens, blood tends to pool in the legs, once it’s pulled downwards by gravity. As a result, your veins will expand to accommodate the extra amount of volume. If this issue is not addressed on time, you may end up being hospitalized.
Prolonged standing places an undue amount of pressure and strain on your knees, hips, feet, and ankles – especially if you don’t change the standing position. This will, in turn, reduce the normal cushioning and lubrication of your synovial joints, leading to tears and sprains. The combined effect of tearing and strain on your muscles and joints can lead to serious pain, making it extremely hard to walk.
Mitigating the Risks of Prolonged Standing
Without a doubt, prolonged standing at work carries numerous health risks. And if this issue is not addressed early enough, you may end up with various long-term health complications. The good news is that you can minimize the risks that come with prolonged standing, through various measures and interventions. If your work involves standing the entire day, here are some tips that can help to protect your body against pain, injuries, discomfort and other health complications.
- Wear the right shoes: One of the most important interventions that you can undertake to alleviate the pain and discomfort that comes with prolonged standing is to wear the right shoes. Shoes for standing all day should provide comfort, cushioning, and support.
- Maintain proper posture: Maintaining proper posture when standing will help to prevent or minimize back, and neck injuries. When you are standing, your shoulders should be aligned with your hips and spine. At the same time, your back should be as straight as possible.
- Stretch regularly: Stretching regularly throughout your workday, will help to keep your joints and muscles flexible. You should also take sitting breaks and circulation breaks whenever you get an opportunity. For instance, during your lunch break, you should sit down and relax, instead of moving around. That way, you will give your back, legs, and feet some time to relax.
- Massage your feet: Taking care of your feet when you get home from work will also help to alleviate the strain that comes with standing all day. For instance, you can massage your feet or soak them in warm water. Soaking them in Epsom salt can also produce a relaxing effect.
Apart from the above measures, you should also ensure that you go for regular checkups every year. And before you head out for your appointment, you should note down any pain or discomfort that you are experiencing, both externally and internally. Your physician will examine your body and advise you accordingly.
As you can see, each style of working has its pros and cons. However, whether your work involves standing or sitting the entire day, you can still do your job and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You simply need to take regular breaks, stretch your feet, wear proper footwear, maintain proper posture when working, and take care of your feet at home.