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What Standing Throughout the Day Can Do to Your Body, Expert Reveals

It's chock-full of benefits, but there are some side effects to be aware of.

You may want to get off your office chair or couch and stand a bit more often, since standing throughout the day can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health. (Heck, you may even want to invest in a standing desk for the sake of your well-being!) That's right—sedentary is bad, and standing is good! We have some interesting news and are ready to share what standing throughout the day can do to your body, according to an expert.

You're probably pretty curious about how standing still can actually be a respectable form of goodness for your wellness. First and foremost, just by standing, you're activating muscles and burning calories. It can also improve your balance! As a matter of fact, as you age, standing on one leg is a recommended exercise to maintain good balance. This "balance test" can also be a key indicator as to how long you'll live, according to WebMD.

There has been so much cautionary information around being sedentary, including the heightened risk of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer, MedlinePlus reports. Needless to say, standing is a solid way to increase your physical activity. By investing in a standing desk, you can really break up a 40-hour work-from-home week. So read on to learn what standing throughout the day can do to your body.

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Too much of anything is never a good thing.

woman at standing desk

Now that you know standing can be quite positive for your body, know that too much of anything is never a good thing. We spoke with Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM the Director of Medical Content & Education at Ro and a member of the Eat This, Not That! Medical Expert Board, who warns, "There is such a thing as too much standing—particularly if you aren't changing your position very often."

There has been research regarding how much standing is considered too much. "Things often start going downhill after about two hours of continuous standing, and even more so after about four hours of continuous standing," explains Dr. Bohl, adding, "That said, some of the negative side effects—like pain—can show up as early as 30 minutes into standing."

Your spine gets compressed when standing.

The entire time you're in a standing position, gravity is pulling down on your body. Dr. Bohl tells us, "One of the effects of this is that the spine gets compressed and the muscles in the neck and core need to stay activated in order to maintain posture. Eventually, these muscles get tired, and prolonged standing can lead to neck pain, lower back pain, fatigue, and discomfort. The muscles in the legs also get tired, leading to leg pain and foot discomfort. Another effect of the constant pull of gravity is that blood can pool in the legs, leading to circulatory problems."

Individuals who stand for long intervals of time on a regular basis are at higher risk of developing varicose veins. Varicose veins appear twisted and enlarged and are very noticeable through your skin.

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If you're pregnant, listen up.

pregnant woman standing at desk with coffee mug

Another negative effect of constant standing—most especially for more than eight hours at a time—can result in potential issues. Research reveals that standing for an extended period is linked to preterm delivery and babies who have a low birth weight. If you are pregnant, it's important to speak with your healthcare professional if you have to be on your feet for long intervals.

Walking contracts and relaxes your muscles and is excellent for blood flow.

If your job requires you to stand for extended intervals of time, it's an excellent idea to take a few breaks to change your position, move around, and rest. If you do need to stay put, perhaps consider having a stool nearby. If you can leave your spot for a bit, taking a little walk, sitting, and elevating both feet off the floor are all smart ideas.

Dr. Bohl points out, "Walking around contracts and relaxes the muscles over and over, which can be good for getting the blood flowing more effectively. Muscle contractions are also how lymph flows through the lymphatic system, a not-so-commonly discussed body system that supports the circulatory system."

As with any sort of pain or discomfort, you shouldn't wait a few hours into standing to do something about it. In order to feel your optimum best, Dr. Bohl recommends being proactive and not waiting a couple of hours or until you're at the point of discomfort before getting active. He says, "Try moving around for a few minutes every half an hour or so—whether it's shifting position, stretching, bending the knees, temporarily sitting down, or something else—and take an even longer break if you're starting to notice back pain or swelling in your legs."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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