These days, there’s a lot of talk about the health risks of sitting too much. But standing too long—especially in one place—comes with its own challenges. Prolonged standing can put stress on your lower back and feet, increase the risk of heart problems, and could cause complications during pregnancy.
“Your next position is your best position,” says Karen Litzy, PT, DPT, MS, a physical therapist based in New York City. Even if you can’t move far, it’s important to focus on shifting your weight regularly. If your job allows for it, Litzy recommends placing a small foam pad under your feet. Having a small step or step stool to put one leg on occasionally can be helpful as well. At the very least, just putting one foot forward can help alternate your weight. “It makes a huge difference,” says Litzy.
You can also find relief by performing these three quick stretches at work.
Back stretch. Sit in a chair with your feet more than hip distance apart and knees out to the side. Slowly roll down with your chin to chest and hands reaching to the floor. Stay in this position for at least 30 seconds. The stretch allows a nice stretch through the back, but it’s gentler on your body than doing the stretch while standing, says Litzy.
Calf stretch. Whenever you find yourself near a wall, put one foot in front of the other facing the wall with the front knee bent. Press the back heel down into the floor to stretch your back calf. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with other leg.
Hamstring stretch. Put your foot up on a bench or chair, holding onto something if you need support. “Don’t reach for your toes, just push your tush back,” advises Litzy, which makes it easier on your back.
While a chair can be a great tool for some simple stretches, don’t forget to sit in it—even if it’s just for a few minutes, says Litzy.
Occasional aches and pains are usually nothing to worry about, and they can often be addressed with regular stretching. But if you have sharp pains, a consistent pain every time you move a certain way, or numbness or tingling, it’s time to speak to a doctor, who may refer you to a physical therapist. Early intervention can make all the difference with persistent pain, says Litzy.