Are Sitting and Standing the New Smoking?

Are Sitting and Standing the New Smoking?

Prolonged standing can be tough on the body. Apparently, sitting is just as bad.

A few weeks ago, I got an adjustable-height desktop converter for my office. It’s a big slab of plastic that sits on top of my desk, with a spring-assisted lift that allows me to raise my working surface whenever I feel like standing (which I’m doing right now) instead of sitting.

Believe it or not, sitting for extended periods of time is one of the most serious occupational hazards of my profession. Some of the health risks associated with sitting for too long – such as obesity and diabetes – seem fairly obvious. But, you might be surprised to learn that sitting also has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death. Yikes.

While the sedentary nature of computer-based office work is a risk factor for me and millions of other workers, the opposite is true for many counter professionals. As Tom Dayton points out in “The Agony of Da Feet” on page 28, many counter pros are on their feet for the majority of their workday.

It probably comes as no surprise that prolonged standing can be bad for you too. According to the Georgetown University School of Nursing, too much time on your feet can contribute to neck and shoulder stiffness; lower-back pain; pain and aching in the legs and feet; pronation of the feet; and heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. There
even have been studies linking prolonged standing with a higher risk of heart disease.

Good grief! If we can’t stand or sit, what the heck should we do? Well, if your job involves prolonged periods of standing, your choice of footwear is a logical place to start. “Whatever your personal style, a good work shoe should offer arch and ankle support, cushioning and protection for your feet,” Dayton explains.

If you stand in the same spot for hours on end, you also might consider getting an anti-fatigue mat to support your body. Now that I’m incorporating some standing into my day – and experiencing a bit of lower-back soreness as a result – I’m planning to purchase one for my office.

A stretching routine can be an effective countermeasure for the negative health effects of prolonged standing or sitting. It can be as simple as raising your arms over your head and pointing your fingers toward the ceiling. However, if you have concerns or questions about the right way to do it, it’s probably best to consult
your doctor.

Exercising regularly (and drinking plenty of water) will go a long way toward building up your stamina and strength. And don’t overlook the importance of varying your movements – or simply moving. If you have to stand in the same spot for an extended period of time, shift your weight, adjust your posture, wiggle your toes, roll your neck and shoulders and make other small movements that can help alleviate the stiffness of being in the same position for too long.

After a long day on your feet, the Georgetown University School of Nursing also suggests immersing your feet in an ice bath, and/or rolling out your feet from heel to toes using a baseball or tennis ball to massage the muscles and tissues in your feet.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to be a substitute for advice from a medical professional. But, I hope it at least gets you thinking about some steps you can take to make your work environment more comfortable – and more conducive to a healthier you.

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