Sitting and Standing for too long - Neither is good for you!

Marie France Bodyline
correct working positions, ergonimics, work ergonomics

Are you working in an industry that requires you to stand all day long? Or do you have a desk job where you sit in front of the computer from 9 am to 5 pm? Either way, you would know that by the time you get to lie down in your bed back home, many parts of your body, which you did not even know existed, would feel totally wrecked.

Many studies have shown that sitting or standing by itself is harmless, but prolonged sitting and standing make a surprise enemy to our health.

Standing for instance, burns fat as you’d require a lot of muscular effort and energy, but at the same time, standing for long number of hours reduces the blood supply to the loaded muscles. Insufficient blood flow, in turn, accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs, neck and lower back.

Sitting, on the other hand relaxes your body from the strain of standing and rests your legs, but sitting too long can lead to various health complications which we will go through in detail below.

So if you have been thinking that sitting in front of a computer all day long could be an easy and relaxing job; think again. The true fact is prolonged sitting, just like standing, actually is equally unproductive. These are some of the health disadvantages that happen when we sit for more than 8 to 9 hours a day at work:

  • Strained neck (craning your neck could result in tight trapezium muscles which lead to neck pain)
  • Sore shoulders (Prolonged hours could strain the trapezium muscles that connect the neck and shoulder)
  • Upper back pain (Poor posture, coupled with long hours, could strain one of the 12 vertebrae that make up the upper back)
  • Lower back pain (When we sit for prolonged hours, the discs of our backbone get compressed and lose access to blood delivering nutrients)
  • Joint compression (Sedentary lifestyle is associated with higher risk of osteoarthritis)
  • Swollen legs (As muscles become inactive, poor blood circulation may cause build-up of fluid)
  • Increased risk of Varicose Veins
  • Increased risk of Colon Cancer

Types of pain from sitting

Similarly, standing for prolonged hours also has its fair share of health disadvantages. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), working in a standing position for long hours on a regular basis could cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Lower back pain
  • Sore feet or swollen legs
  • Varicose veins
  • Stiffness in the neck and shoulders.

Correct working positions

So how do we strike a balance between the two? Movements of course. Taking intermittent breaks by moving from a prolonged sitting or sitting will do great justice to our body from the continuous strain placed on our muscles, nerves, bones or even organs. When we move, our muscles contract and burn more fuel in the form of sugar. However, when we are not moving, less muscles contraction causes burn less fuel. Sugar turns into fat. So moving can help better circulation to the muscles, which in turn helps burn sugars.

In fact, social scientists have now found the perfect formula for ultimate productivity at work: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17 Minutes. What does this mean to you? You could have hourly runs to the pantry or washroom, which not only provides a break to your brain but also your body from the continuous standing or sitting. If you are unable to leave your workstations that frequently, however, try 90-minute-block downtime breaks instead.

Therefore, a well-designed workplace is vital to the workers to work in a variety of well-balanced working positions and able to change between these positions frequently. Just look at some large multi-national corporations around the world such Google, Apple, Nokia or Microsoft – most of their offices often seek to strike a balance between sitting and standing – by making their employees work on cushions, pouffes, tall tables, bar tables and even on the floor!

In short, even if many employers offer breaks as a right of employment to its employees, many of us do not take this advantage to rest our brains and bodies. You may have been unconsciously harming your body by sitting all day long in front of the computer with an objective of finishing work early and getting home early, but this could be doing long-term damage to your body, unknown to you. Breaks are scientifically-proven to boost productivity and provide opportunities for your muscles and nerves to recuperate from the prolonged strain, so it’s time that we embrace correct work ethics towards a healthier lifestyle and productive results equally.

*As causes for being overweight vary from person to person, weight loss results will also vary from person to person, dependant on various genetic or environmental factors such as food intake, individual rate of metabolism, level of exercise, etc. No individual result should be seen as typical.