Sitting has been dubbed the “new smoking” but standing too long is just as bad for your health. Let’s review why sitting all day or standing all day at work can cause health problems and the proper ratio of sitting to standing. We’ll also discuss how graduated compression socks can help alleviate pain from your job and protect you from further health complications.
Sitting and Standing Too Long: What’s the Big Deal?Sitting is comfortable so why it is bad for your health? Standing and walking around burns calories so that can’t be a bad thing, right? Like most things in life, moderation is key. Here are the potential health complications that face those who sit or stand too long at work each day:
Sitting All Day
If you’re sitting for most of the day, there’s a good chance that your shoulders, neck, upper back, and glutes are constantly tight and sore. But muscle soreness is the least of your worries.
When you sit all day for work without proper walking breaks, your cardiovascular system is at an increased risk for complications such as high cholesterol. Studies show that making an effort to stand and change positions during the workday is associated with improved cardiovascular health.
One study monitored office workers over the course of a year. The workers were instructed to spend time getting up and walking around. Changing positions while at their desks was also encouraged. Sitting wasn’t prohibited but it was reduced.
Researchers found that after only three months, systolic blood pressure decreased. After an entire year, the subjects lost a considerable amount of body weight, especially body fat. The subjects were found to have smaller waists and better overall cardiovascular health.
One of the biggest concerns in the Western world is the prevalence of preventable diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Aside from poor nutritional choices, the biggest culprit is a lack of physical activity and exercises.
If you’re sitting at your desk at work, it’s easy to lose track of time, especially if you’re busy. But it’s imperative that you make an effort to change positions, walk, and stretch.
The World Cancer Research Fund also conducted in-depth research that showed that insufficient levels of physical activity have been linked with cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and several forms of cancer.
Researchers agree that there is consistently strong evidence that simply by increasing the amount of physical activity you do each day, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing a variety of diseases including colon and breast cancer.
Muscle and Postural Distortion Patterns:
We’ve all sat too long and needed a big stretch afterward to offset the cramping in our back, legs, and neck. Aside from strain and pain, sitting for too long can promote unhealthy postural patterns.
Additionally, research by The Journal of Physical Therapy Science has shown that the most common muscular distortion pattern is when our shoulders are hunched forward, creating an unnatural curve in the back. This is usually caused by typing at a keyboard all day or having to constantly look down and text.
Another common muscular problem comes from not utilizing your glutes and hamstrings. Since you’re sitting on them all day, they are inactive and the longer this goes on, the weaker they get. In response, surrounding muscles such as the calves, quadriceps, and lower back pick up the slack. The extra workload on these muscles creates strain and pain while increasing your risk of injury.
Lower Bone Density and Mass:
Your muscle tissue isn’t the only part of your body that’s at risk; the health of your bones is also a cause for concern when you sit too much.
It has been proven that sitting for extended periods of time over a long enough timeline can decrease bone density and bone mass, putting you at risk for conditions such as osteoporosis.
Your bones need to work against gravity. The constant hit of your feet on the ground helps to increase bone density, strengthening your bones and decreasing frailty. The more you sit, the less of a chance your bones have for getting stronger, which can place you at high risk for breaks when you get older.
It might seem strange, but your brain needs stimulation through physical activity just like your body does. Unfortunately, if you’re sitting too much for work, you run the risk of negatively impacting your cognitive development and overall cognitive health...so technically speaking, sitting actually makes you less intelligent! 🤯
Not convinced yet? Yep, research has also shown that individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle have reduced medial temporal lobe thickness. This presents a serious concern for older adults because this part of the brain is primarily responsible for memory. Some experts suggest a shrinking medial temporal lobe can play a part in the onset of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Standing All Day
For servers, bartenders, nurses, and other professions where standing is required, the lower body and lower back are going to be the most obvious pain points. But standing all day can do more to the body than cause a few aches and pain.
Muscle Fatigue and Cramping:
When you stand and walk, your muscles are in a constant contracted or tense position. Studies show that standing too long can start as something as simple as discomfort and eventually lead to lower limb fatigue. Eventually, the fatigue will become soreness and then cramping.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of this study is the fact that subjects experienced these symptoms without carrying extra weight! Now imagine how much greater the discomfort, cramping, and pain could be if you’re in a profession that requires carrying trays or boxes.
Continuing with the point above, prolonged periods of standing can lead to chronic pain. Short-term or acute pain can last a few hours or a few weeks. But chronic pain is defined as lasting three months or more.
Studies show that standing all day for work can cause chronic back pain. This could easily prompt several other issues including reliance on over-the-counter pain killers as well as musculoskeletal disorders. As we discussed above, when one muscle group weakens, a nearby muscle group must compensate. This can cause stress, strain, and pain while increasing your risk of injury.
With muscular issues aside, another concern for your lower body involves your veins. Standing too long has been shown to cause inflammation in your veins. This is exacerbated when you’re not wearing the proper shoes.
Over time, this inflammation can worsen, becoming chronic or long term. Eventually, you can develop varicose veins.
Studies show that when standing occurs continually over prolonged periods, it can result in inflammation of the veins. This inflammation may progress over time to chronic and painful varicose veins.
You can think of veins like a one-way street. They push blood up to the heart and the blood goes one way. When you’re on your feet all day, inflammation can cause the blood to pool, adding stress and weight on your veins. Eventually, you’ll develop painful and highly visible veins in your legs, especially behind the knees and in the calves.
Remember how we said that sitting too much is bad for your bone health? Well, unfortunately, standing too much is harmful to your connective tissue.
When you stand all day for work, your feet, knees, hips, and back can lock up. Studies show that this immobility can promote the breakdown of tendons and ligaments. Unlike muscle tissue, connective tissue takes a long time to heal and it’s more susceptible to long-term complications.
If your connective tissue continues to experience more than the everyday wear and tear, eventually, this can lead to the development of rheumatic diseases such as arthritis.
Ironically, standing too much can also increase your risk of heart disease. Studies show that people who work in an industry where standing is required are twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to those people who sit for most of the day. How’s that possible?
Think about varicose veins and how they develop. The inflammation causes blood to pool and this causes a heavy amount of oxidative stress, increasing your risk for health-related complications.
How Long Should You Sit vs. How Long Should You Stand?
Sitting and standing are not inherently bad for your health. It’s only when you do one in excess that potential health issues can arise. So, is there a magic number for how long you should sit each day compared to standing? While there isn’t a perfect universal number, there are general guidelines that are easy to follow.
If you work for eight hours in a seated position, you should spend at least two of those hours standing – ideally four hours. In other words, try to stand up, change positions, or walk around for 20 to 30 minutes every hour.
If you work for eight hours in a standing position, you should give yourself two hours of sitting breaks broken up throughout your shift. Over the course of an eight-hour shift, you would sit for 15 minutes every hour.
Let’s get realistic: Are you going to be able to perfectly commit to these guidelines? Probably not. You might have to stay at your desk on a call that lasts an hour. Or maybe you’re a bartender who is busy during the St. Patty’s Day rush. If you’re not able to commit to these sitting and standing breaks, compression socks for standing all day or sitting all day offer a safe, effective, and proven way to reduce your risk for health complications.
Benefits of Compression Socks for Standing or Sitting All Day
Compression socks are a type of stocking that fits tighter than your average sock. The tightness is snug but not uncomfortable. This tightness creates a safe pressure that helps to promote healthy blood flow and circulation, especially when it comes to moving blood up towards the heart.
Compression socks also offer a number of other benefits that can have a dramatic difference during your workday.
Improves Blood Flow:
Think about all of the potential health complications listed above; most had one thing in common: poor or disrupted circulation. For example, when you’re standing too long, you can develop varicose veins because inflammation weakens circulation in your legs. For those who sit all day, your cardiovascular health is at risk due to blood clotting.
Studies show that compression socks safely and effectively increase blood flow, promoting healthy circulation. Proper blood flow carries with it a number of its own benefits including improved nutrient delivery and uptake as well as protection against clotting and varicose veins, as we’ll discuss below.
Protects Against Clotting:
Studies show that staying in a seated position for hours on end with no break can significantly increase your risk for blood clots.
Under normal and healthy conditions, a blood clot is a gel-like substance that forms around cuts or injuries to prevent you from bleeding out.
However, if you develop a blood clot from sitting too long, such as with varicose veins, this gel-like substance has nowhere to go. Eventually, it can break off and travel up the body getting stuck in the lungs or heart. It’s an understatement to say that this is a serious health risk.
Compression socks have been shown in studies to dramatically reduce the risk of blood clotting during long periods of both standing and sitting.
Protects Against Varicose Veins:
Continuing with the points above, compression socks prevent blood from pooling in the veins in your legs. Varicose veins are caused when inflammation slows down the flow of blood in your lower body, causing blood to pool.
Compression socks force the flow of blood upward, promoting healthy circulation, and reducing the risk for developing painful varicose veins.
If you’re on your feet for most of the day, there’s no doubt that your feet and calves swell. An easy way to check is to pay attention when taking your shoes off. Is it difficult to slip them off after work because they feel tighter or stuck? That’s swelling.
Fortunately, compression socks can reduce swelling in your lower body by preventing fluid buildup. In fact, one study focused on those in the workforce who had to stand all day. This study found that workers using compression socks reported less swelling and pain even after long shifts.
Researchers highly recommended compression socks for 12-hour shifts for those who didn’t have a chance to sit down during their shifts.
Promotes Lymphatic System Functioning:
Inside your body, there is something called a lymphatic system. Its primary roles include promoting healthy circulation, boosting the immune response, and supporting necessary detoxification. When you have poor circulation, you run the risk of developing a condition known as Lymphedema, which is the buildup of lymph fluid.
Studies show that compression socks can effectively promote the circulation of the lymph system, significantly lowering your risk for developing Lymphedema.
Who Can Benefit the Most from Compression Socks?
Compression socks are a safe way to encourage healthy blood flow and circulation in the general population. But compression socks for sitting all day or standing all day can be especially helpful for those in the following career fields:
- Medical professionals such as nurses, doctors, and dentists.
- Office workers such as call center representatives, customer services, and IT representatives.
- Business travelers, especially those who go on long-haul travel for business.
- Long-distance drivers, especially nationwide truck drivers.
- Uber, Lyft, rideshare, and taxi drivers.
- Restaurant workers such as chefs, waitstaff, and hosts.
- Retail staff, especially if you’re working in the stock room and your job focuses on loading and unloading merchandise.
- Warehouse workers.
Socks for Standing All Day: Effective, Affordable, and Convenient
In a perfect world, we would all be sitting and standing enough to promote health and avoid complications. Unfortunately, our careers don’t always allow us to do that. If you want to avoid health issues related to sitting or standing all day, compression socks can help.
Wearing compression socks during work shifts can promote proper blood flow and circulation while reducing your risk of blood clots, varicose veins, and much more.
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