If work has you standing all day, odds are your feet and lower back will start complaining before long.
No need to succumb to the pain though. A few small changes can bring big comfort.
Be nice to your feet
First, make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes (read: shoes that support your arches and include padding under your heels and the balls of your feet). It also helps to plant your tootsies on a rubber mat. Many workplaces use them, so ask for one if you’re going without.
Second, check your posture. If you’re not lined up, your back won’t be happy (neither will your hips or shoulders – it’s all linked).
Generally, you want to stand with your feet hip-width apart to help distribute your weight comfortably. Your hips should stack over your feet, and your shoulders should stack over your hips. Your chin should be level with the ground. Slightly engage your stomach so that you maintain your lumbar curve and a neutral pelvis.
To check whether you’re properly aligned, stand with your back to a wall. Your upper back, shoulders and bottom should touch it. You should be able to slip a hand between your lower back and the wall.
Sounds like a lot of work because it is.
“Maintaining proper standing posture for long periods can be difficult for some due, in part, to muscle fatigue,” says Taylor Eubank, ACSM, EP-C, a health & wellbeing consultant with Unum.
Beyond those basics, some habits will help:
Switch legs. Shift weight from one leg to the other periodically, Eubank says. And don’t lock the knee of your standing leg, which puts pressure on joints. If you want to challenge your balance try the yoga pose Tree throughout the day.
Stretch. Reach your arms overhead, and interlace your fingers. Lean to one side as you exhale, come back to center as you inhale, and then exhale as you lean to the other side. If you have two minutes, some space and don’t mind people possibly looking at you, try this short sequence of yoga moves.
Get moving. Take intermittent movement breaks, Eubank suggests. Walking works great too. Doesn’t really matter what you do, just move.
Get a leg up. Periodically place a foot on a small stool to take pressure off your lower back.
Be ambivalent. If an adjustable-height desk is available (or a chair is around), alternate between sitting and standing.
The upside of standing
A job that keeps you on your feet isn’t all bad though.
“Standing while working can be beneficial in that it increases blood flow throughout the body and can help burn additional calories when compared to sitting,” Eubank says.
In other words, your bod will be more fit and your heart gets some exercise – at least more than if you earn your income while bound to a chair all day.