What’s better for your overall health? Sitting sedentary at a desk all day, or working a job where you spend at least three quarters of your working day on your feet? It’s a trick question. According to the most recent studies, they’re both terrible for you.
There have been tons of studies about how prolonged sitting at work is bad for you, but very little research has been done on the other side of the spectrum: jobs that require you to stand all day.
Maria Gabriela Garcia, currently working towards her doctorate in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, recently took it upon herself and some colleagues to research both the short-term and long-term health implications for people who work “standing jobs”.
For the study, they recruited men and women in two separate age groups and had them simulate standing work for periods lasting about 5 hours at a time. The participants were given a brief sitting break lasting no more than 5 minutes, as well as a standard 30-minute lunch break.
Upon completion of the simulation periods, researchers measured muscle fatigue, postural stability, and assessed the discomfort and long-term fatigue of each participant. Results showed that even with regular breaks, the participants suffered significant long-term fatigue following their 5-hour simulated working day.
The results were even across the board, with young participants experiencing just as much fatigue and soreness as workers over the age of 50. Even after a 30 minute seated recovery time, the tests found that most participants were still suffering from long-term muscle fatigue, whether they realized it or not.
According to the CCOHS, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, working in a standing position on a regular basis can lead not only to fatigue and lower back pain, but can also cause other health problems such as sore feet, swollen legs, varicose veins, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and may eventually contribute to musculoskeletal, disorders and back pain.
“In a well-designed workplace,” they admit, “the worker has the opportunity to choose from among a variety of well-balanced working positions and to change between them frequently. Even in jobs that require workers to remain standing to carry out tasks, seats should be provided in any case to allow them to sit occasionally.”
If there’s anything these studies show, it’s that it’s crucial for employees, regardless of whether they work a standing job or a sitting job, to find ways to switch up their working positions throughout the day. It’s a simple thing to do, and it’s one that can go a long way towards positively impacting your health. You can read the full research results here.