News for the anti-sitting gurus: standing up all day is not good for you either

A new study published in the journal Human Factors suggests that prolonged periods of standing are bad for our health.

The study, which focused on the workplace, found that employees who spend too long on their feet could suffer painful long-term back problems or permanent muscle damage.

Other short-term problems can include corns, bunions and aching muscles. Increased pressure on knee and ankle joints makes cartilage wear away more quickly, which can lead to premature osteoarthritis.

María Gabriela García, a PhD candidate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, asked volunteers to stand up for five hours with regular breaks. On average they reported feeling tired for half an hour afterwards. In some cases their bodies took hours to recover – time that most people don’t have to relax after a day at work.

García points out that this isn’t just a problem for employees:

‘The work-related musculoskeletal implications that can be caused by prolonged standing are a burden not only for workers but also for companies and society. Long-term muscle fatigue caused by standing for long periods of time has not received much attention.’

Conversely, inactivity at work (too much sitting) can cause type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is even a campaign group aimed at eliminating the problem, called Get Britain Standing.

According to its website:

‘British people sit for 8.9 hours each day (on average). In recent years a variety of major international research has produced compelling evidence that sitting for more than four hours each day leads to:

Enzymes responsible for burning harmful blood fats shutting down
Reduced calorie burning (metabolic rate)
Disrupted blood sugar levels
Increased insulin and blood pressure levels
Leg muscles switch off’

You could be forgiven for being confused by so much contradictory advice. The British Medical Journal recommends four hours of standing a day, ‘breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with the use of sit-stand desks’ and taking regular walks throughout the day.