While health detriments associated with sitting for long stretches of time at the office are well documented, researchers have found that jobs that require people to stand for long may be equally harmful for health. Nearly half of all employees worldwide are required to stand for more than 75% of their workdays.
Prolonged standing is associated with short-term adverse health issues, including reports of fatigue, leg cramps, and backaches, which can affect job performance and cause significant discomfort.
The new study published in the journal Human Factors
suggests that, over time, this type of sustained muscle fatigue can result in serious health consequences -- musculoskeletal disorders and back pain.
"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," said Maria Gabriela Garcia, doctoral candidate at ETH Zurich.
For the study, the researchers asked participants of two age groups to simulate standing work for five-hour periods. Participants could take brief seated rest breaks and a 30-minute lunch.
The authors found evidence of significant long-term fatigue following the five-hour workday, even when it included regular breaks, and that adverse symptoms persisted for at least 30 minutes following a seated recovery period.
Moreover, young adults ages from 18 to 30 were just as likely to experience long-term fatigue as were workers over the age of 50.
"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," Garcia added.