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Build Your Career Office Life

Sitting or Standing? Both Have Consequences for Workers

Sitting or Standing? Both Have Consequences for Workers
Credit: Delpixel/Shutterstock

We have long heard of the health perils for employees who sit at a desk all day. Now it appears standing isn't much better for them.

While previous research found that sitting at a desk all day can lead to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, a new study recently published in the journal Human Factors revealed that employees who stand for more than 75 percent of their workday can also suffer from a variety of negative health issues.

Specifically, prolonged standing can lead to increased fatigue, leg cramps and backaches, all of which can negatively impact job performance and cause significant discomfort.

This type of sustained muscle fatigue can result in serious health consequences, said María Gabriela Garcí,one of the study's authors and a PhD candidate in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zürich in Switzerland.

"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," García said in a statement.

As part of the study, researchers asked 14 men and 12 women of two different age groups to simulate standing work for five-hour periods. Participants were able to sit down during brief rest breaks and take a 30-minute lunch. [Stand Up! Why Standing Beats Sitting for Creativity ]

The study's authors discovered evidence of significant long-term fatigue following the five-hour workday, even when it included regular breaks. They said the negative symptoms continued for at least 30 minutes following a seated recovery period.
Additionally, the researchers found that younger workers between the ages of 18 and 30 were just as likely to experience long-term fatigue as their peers who were over the age of 50.

"Long-term fatigue after prolonged standing work may be present without being perceived," García said. "Current work schedules for standing work may not be adequate for preventing fatigue accumulation, and this long-lasting muscle fatigue may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders and back pain."

The study was co-authored by Bernard Martin, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, and Thomas Läubli, a senior scientist and lecturer at ETH Zürich.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.