Millions of workers around the world have jobs that require extended standing. From teachers and assembly line workers, to retail workers, baristas, bartenders, cashiers, and security guards, a huge range of professions require extended standing.
Interestingly, standing at work appears to be at least partly cultural in origin: in Denmark, 30-40 percent of workers stand all day, and in Sweden it’s just 20 percent, while in North America 50-70 percent of the work force stands for four or more hours a day.
Standing at work causes fatigue and soreness and is even a risk factor for more serious illnesses. If you stand all day at work, here are some tips and tricks to prevent soreness and protect yourself.
What You'll Learn
- Health Risks of Standing All Day
- 10 Tips to Staying Healthy When Standing All Day
- 1. Move during your shift.
- 2. Use a foot roller.
- 3. Choose the right shoes.
- 4. Practice your alignment.
- 5. Use compression socks.
- 6. Use a standing mat.
- 7. Exercise for balance and posture.
- 8. Use insoles.
- 9. Adjust the height of your workstation.
- 10. Use a foot or leg massager at home.
Health Risks of Standing All Day
There have been numerous studies evaluating the risks of standing at work, and here are some of the most serious and persistent health risks:
Standing requires the muscles to remain in a state of tension for extended periods of time, which causes muscle soreness and fatigue. It can also lead to muscle pain and cramping, particularly in the lower body.
Prolonged standing impairs healthy circulation. The body relies on muscle motion in the legs to help the heart fight gravity and return blood and fluids to the upper body. When you stand for long periods, fluid accumulates in the lower body, causing swelling in the feet and ankles that can make feet sore and uncomfortable.
In addition to straining the muscles, standing puts pressure on the joints, which can cause tension and pain, especially in the lower back as the spine compresses.
The reduced circulation caused by standing is a key factor in causing varicose veins. Varicose veins alone can be painful and tender, but they also increase the risk of severe complications from bleeding or clotting in affected veins.
Standing at work has been proven to impair cardiovascular function and is associated with a number of different heart conditions. Even when controlled for other factors, standing is a key risk factor for atherosclerosis and other heart diseases.
10 Tips to Staying Healthy When Standing All Day
1. Move during your shift.
Remaining in a single stationary position for longer than 3 hours is a severe health risk and impairs your body’s circulation. Even simple movements performed at your workstation can reduce your discomfort and improve your health. During your shift, periodically perform the following kinds of movements:
- Shift weight from one foot to the other while rotating your hips. Moving your hips in a figure-eight motion while shifting your weight back and forth helps to alleviate tightness in the hips and lower back, while promoting more circulation in the lower body
- Flex your knees. Bend your knees and try (without pushing beyond your comfortable range of motion) to touch your heels to your buttocks, alternating from one leg to the other. This helps to loosen the muscles in the lower body and reduce pressure on the joints
- Stretch your calves. Placing your hands on a wall or on your desk, stretch one leg straight behind you and bend the forward knee directly over your ankle to stretch your calves and ankles. Contract your thighs while you stretch, and alternate legs. This promotes lower body circulation and releases pressure on the joints
- Take short walks. During breaks, take a walk around the block, around the building, or even up and down a hallway. Even at a relaxed pace, walking improves your circulation and heart health, and stretches the muscles in your feet
2. Use a foot roller.
If possible, keep a sturdy foot roller like this one at your desk and periodically slip off your shoes and roll the arches of your feet. A quick foot massage is a great way to improve lower-body circulation and reduce pain and soreness.
3. Choose the right shoes.
There is no better way to avoid pain and health problems from standing all day than choosing the right shoes. Good shoes reduce foot and leg pain, promote better balance, and provide support when standing all day.
Some of the best shoes for standing all day include:
The super comfortable Hazel flat has a deeply cushioned sole with stable non-skid tread, a memory foam insole for comfort, and a breathable mesh upper for comfort. It has been accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association for good foot health.
The Grasshoppers Windham slip-on has an enhanced memory foam sock liner that controls odor and moisture while providing long-lasting comfort and cushioning. The cushioned arch provides extra support, and it comes in four stylish, nautical-inspired colors.
The Saucony Jazz Low Pro Sneaker has a shock-absorbing midsole, padded collar, and rubber traction outsole for great stability, comfort, and impact protection. It comes in a huge range of colors for every preference, and are light weight and easy to wear anywhere.
The Sketchers Afterburn Sneakers have a lightweight flexible rubber sole with a high-traction finish for stability. They have a memory foam insole for cushioned comfort, and a padded collar and tongue. The perforated and mesh upper is breathable, with supportive overlays.
The Sketcher’s Performance Slip-on Walking Shoe is an incredibly comfortable shoe, with a flexible upper that doesn’t constrict, and is breathable for comfort. They are lightweight and have an energy return insole that cushions every step. The memory foam cushioned heel and vamp provide even more comfort.
4. Practice your alignment.
Standing properly is a great way to protect your body and health when standing all day at work. Practicing good posture relieves pressure in your lower back, reducing pain and stress in the joints and ligaments. To practice good standing posture:
- Place your feet shoulder width apart
- Keep your weight shifted slightly forward, to the balls of your feet.
- Keep your knees slightly softened, not locked backward
- Let your arms hang naturally
- Keep your spine straight, tilting your pelvis so that your stomach and rear end are on top of each other, rather than pushed out
- Stand tall with your shoulders back
- Keep your head level and centered over your neck.
5. Use compression socks.
One of the health risks of standing all day is that the decreased movement and circulation allows blood to collect in the lower body, causing varicose veins and other circulatory problems. Compression socks help maintain blood flow and reduce swelling, while also providing gentle support that improves comfort. They come in sizes and styles for men and women, and in a huge range of colors.
6. Use a standing mat.
OSHA strongly recommends anti-fatigue mats for workers who stand all day (although they are not required), and you may be able to get your employer to provide one.
Anti-fatigue mats have a soft, cushioned surface that protects the feet and lower legs from compression and impact, and also encourages small stabilizing movements in the feet and calves on the cushioned surface, which reduces foot fatigue and pain.
Anti-fatigue mats come in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses, suitable for different flooring environments in different workplaces.
7. Exercise for balance and posture.
While nearly everyone wants to exercise to be lean and fit, not everyone has time for that. If you are low on time, try to incorporate 10-20 minutes every day of an exercise routine that promotes good balance, posture, and stability. A few minutes of yoga, Pilates, or tai chi have been proven to reduce back pain and improve overall health without added strain or impact on a tired body.
8. Use insoles.
Insoles are a fantastic way to protect your feet and reduce pain in the feet and lower body. The best thing about insoles is that they can be used to support high arches, low arches, provide extra cushioning, or provide whatever your feet need, in a simple and affordable way.
Here are some of our favorite insoles:
These OrthoLite insoles have patented anti-fatigue technology, for excellent shock absorption at key pressure points and all-day comfort.
The Superfeet GREEN Insoles are designed for feet with high arches, to give the extra support you need for comfort and reduced foot pain. They provide stability and cushioning, and have organic odor control.
The Samurai Insoles for flat feet are also excellent for plantar fasciitis and fallen arches. Designed by a podiatrist, they provide optimal foot and leg function, with a custom-feel fit and instant relief.
9. Adjust the height of your workstation.
Your workstation should be at a height that fits your body and range of motion for your tasks. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has great guidelines for the workstation height for standing occupations. If your workstation isn’t adjustable in height, you may want to consider adding a stand so that you can customize the height yourself.
10. Use a foot or leg massager at home.
At the end of a long day on your feet, you deserve to rest and have a nice foot massage. But a massage can do more than just help you relax; massage can promote circulation, relieve swelling, and reduce pain in the feet and lower body. Consider a shiatsu foot massager, or, for greater relief, choose a massager that includes the legs as well.
Most of these tips for standing all day are simple, affordable, and take very little time. It’s worth it to try as many ways as you can to protect your health and comfort at work, so that you can have a care-free, pain-free, enjoyable time when you aren’t at work, and make the most of your weekends.