New research, which was published in Human Factors, is suggesting that prolonged standing at a job can have the same health detriments as sitting for long periods of time. Millions of Americans have to stand for over 75 percent of their job, and prolonged standing puts you at risk for fatigue, leg cramps, and backaches, which are also impacting job performance. Not only are the adverse effects of standing for long periods of time bad for work, but they are also causing significant discomfort for people, and this is leading them to seek out doctors and chiropractors to help them relieve the symptoms. The new study is suggesting that people who stand for long periods of time are risking muscle fatigue, which can be chronic and have severe health consequences.
The lead researcher of the study was María Gabriela García, a PhD candidate in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zürich. Garcia explained how the musculoskeletal implications that are work-related are a burden on the workers as well as the company and society. The long-term muscle fatigue caused by standing has not gotten as much attention as the prolonged health detriments of sitting. Garcia and her research team asked participants in two different age groups to simulate standing work for five-hour long periods. The participants were allowed to take one 30-minute lunch and brief seated rests in between. The study found that there was long-term fatigue following the five-hour workday, even when regular breaks were included. The adverse symptoms had stayed with the participants for at least 30 minutes after the seated recovery period. The study also found that the group ages 18 to 30 were just as like to experience the long-lasting fatigue as those who were above age 50.
The long-lasting fatigue from standing can be present without being perceived according to Garcia. The work schedules for standing work are not that adequate at helping prevent the fatigue from setting in, and the accumulation of this muscle fatigue can do significant damage to the musculoskeletal system. This can result in musculoskeletal disorders and back pain, which impacts the quality of life of the worker, and that hinders work performance and ability. There is also the issue of the musculoskeletal issues causing a worker to end up getting hurt on the job, which means that if the injury occurred as a result of the job, then the company would have to pay worker’s compensation, and that also is a huge expense for the company.
The best thing that workers can do is practice safe and ergonomic standing, especially if the standing for work is more than half of the work day. This usually involves putting one foot up on a box or other object so that both feet are not completely on the ground. Keeping one foot higher than the other can help prevent back problems. It is also a good idea that during breaks, the workers stretch out to stay limber, including doing exercises that promote leg circulation, and also exercises that focus on stretching out the back. The workers also need to make sure they are taking breaks when they need to, although this can be difficult if in a warehouse environment, but it’s important that accommodations be made so that the workers are not injuring themselves while on the job.
The employers also need to make sure they are following all rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means if someone does already have a medical issue, that sitting down and not always standing can be something the employer can help provide for the worker. The most important thing to remember is that you know when your feeling fatigued or worn out, so it’s important to always see a doctor at the first signs of a medical issue, such as a back problem. There are braces out there you can wear under your clothes to help your back, along with other types of supportive devices, so you should not feel afraid to seek out these products if you are having a back issue.