We've all heard of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, so it is only natural to think that standing on the job must be a healthier alternative to sitting. The fact is, there are drawbacks to both standing and sitting for extended periods of time. In this article, we explore the good points and the bad points of both and offer some tips to help you arrive at the best compromise. Read on to learn more.
Standing Helps You Lose Weight!
According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and presented in the publication, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, if you spend six hours daily on your feet, you will burn a whopping 54 calories a day. If you do not eat more to make up for those calories, you could end up losing five pounds a year.
Of course, standing also builds muscle (which weighs more than fat) so the amount of weight you might lose through standing is not really an all-inclusive indicator of the benefits to be had from standing. Standing and moving about during the day also helps build muscle mass and bone density, so those benefits must be factored in as well.
What If You Are Not Able To Stand For Six Hours A Day?
For many people, standing for long periods of time is uncomfortable for feet, legs, joints and lower back. Still, this should not keep you from taking standing breaks if you have a sitting job.
One of the authors of the Mayo Clinic study, Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, points out that simply reducing the amount of time you sit at a desk can have excellent health benefits. For example, if you are currently sitting for twelve hours a day, modifying your work habits so that you can stand for part of your tasks and take standing and walking breaks throughout the day would help reduce the negative impact of sitting.
According to the study, including the kind of moderate physical exercise that makes up activities of daily living (ADL) can provide real benefits through a concept known as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) which takes into account the number of calories we burn simply attending to everyday tasks.
Dr. Lopez-Jimenez says that one important component of the NEAT concept is standing. Adding standing and other low-impact daily activities to your routine helps burn calories, improve blood circulation and provides general benefits to overall good health.
Is Standing Always The Best Health Choice?
Even though the negative impact of extended sitting is accepted as an overriding truth, the fact is, excessive standing can also cause health problems.
Another study conducted by a team of researchers at Toronto's Institute for Work & Health and presented in the publication, American Journal of Epidemiology, found that being on your feet for extended periods of time in an ongoing way can have a very negative impact on your health.
The twelve-year study followed a group of more than 7000 participants (equal numbers of men and women). The focus of the study was to find out which participants developed heart disease in the course of the study.
Researchers began by gathering information regarding the types of jobs held by the participants. Researchers then followed participants government health records throughout the duration of the study.
In the final analysis, a total of 3.4 percent developed heart disease in the course of the study. Of these, 2.1 percent were female and 4.6 percent were male.
The jobs held by the participants were categorized as:
It turned out that people who worked in solely standing jobs developed heart disease at about twice the rate of those working in all other types of jobs.
Of course, other factors came into play, such as participants' :
It was also found that while there was not much difference in outcome for participants who performed solely sitting work and those in combination job and jobs that required bending, crouching and other positions, there was a significant difference between all of these types of jobs and standing jobs.
Although these results may seem surprising at first glance, they really shouldn't be. If you think about it, it just makes common sense that being on your feet all day would take a toll on your body. In fact, lengthy standing has always been known to cause or exacerbate problems such as:
When you stand for long periods of time, gravity causes the blood to pool in your lower legs. This negatively impacts circulation and causes stress on the heart. The Toronto researchers concluded that this is why participants who held jobs such as:
...…experienced a greater instance of cardiovascular disease than other participants.
What Should You Do?
The study on the dangers of sitting found many problems with sitting. The study on the dangers of standing found many problems with standing. What on earth are you supposed to do?
In the end, both studies concluded that it's wisest to mix it up a bit. Here’s how:
- 1If you have a desk job, see about getting an adjustable desk so that you can alternate between sitting and standing as you perform your tasks.
- 2If you have a standing job, see about getting a stool or chair so that you can sit occasionally. If your employer doesn't allow this, you may need to do a little educating to get your point across. If you are still required to stand in one place without sitting for long periods of time, you may very well and wisely consider changing jobs for the sake of your health and well-being.
- 3Whenever you have a break at work, use it to do the opposite of whatever it is you must do in your work. If you sit to work, stand and walk around on your break. If you stand to work, sit and do some chair stretches to rest your muscles and improve your circulation and your flexibility.
- 4Whether you work sitting or standing or both, take time everyday to elevate your legs and improve your blood circulation. The simple yoga pose, legs-up the-wall, is excellent for improving circulation and relieving backaches and stress.
Are Combination Jobs Best?
It stands to reason that a job which combines standing, sitting and walking would be the best option, and remember that variety is the spice of life. A job that provides a bit of variation is less likely to stiffen your muscles and wear you down.
One very significant difference in results of the Toronto study is the fact that men who had sitting jobs developed heart disease at a rate 39% higher than men with combination jobs. On the other hand, women with sitting jobs developed heart disease at a rate 80% higher than women with combination jobs.
Researchers were unable to determine why this is the case, but suggest that it may have to do with the types of jobs typically held by men and women. For example, men held jobs such as retail manager or courier driver. Women held jobs such as cashier, teacher, nurse. These jobs differ greatly in stress levels and the type of movement involved.
What Does It All Mean?
Attaining and maintaining overall good health is an holistic pursuit. Whether you sit or stand at your job is an important component, but it is really only one aspect of the big picture.
In addition to adding variety to your daily work routine by combining sitting, standing and moving about during the workday, you should also pay close attention to your daily health habits. Create a balanced lifestyle that includes:
Remember that the things you don’t do are as important as the things you do. To stay healthy, be sure to:
When you take steps to develop a healthy lifestyle, you will see some benefits right away. For example, you should feel more energetic and optimistic. You may begin getting compliments on your appearance.
Other improvements will develop with the passage of time and consistent practice. In the long term, when you eat well, exercise regularly and watch your weight you can expect to live longer, have more energy and avoid many common diseases, such as:
Taking a mindful approach toward the way you do your job (sitting, standing or both) and the way you live your life is a proactive way to take charge and enjoy the best health possible.