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Sitting vs. Standing: Which is Better?

Sitting is better.  

No, standing is better. 

Both are good. Neither are good.

The notion of the "best posture" for workers has been debated for decades.  So who really holds the answer to this age old question? The current theory suggests that the greatest benefit is derived from alternating sitting and standing positions while at work.  

According to Ergonomist, Tom J. Albin, sitting places a higher compressive load on the spine than standing.   "Watch a group that has [been] sitting for a long period of time. . . You'll often see those with sore backs standing after a short while; particularly when the chairs aren't well designed."  

He notes a study by Rajendra Paul in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society:  "When two groups stood for two hours per day were compared, (one in a 15 minute block and one in a 30 minute block), the thirty minute group showed less spinal shrinkage than the 15 minute group."  He also reported that individuals who alternated between sitting and standing felt less fatigued and more alert at the end of the day.

Further investigation of the sitting vs. standing controversy has shown that workstations that allow for alternation between sitting and standing are more effective when the working posture is appropriate to the task.  For example, heavy assembly task stations should be lower while fine motor tasks with high visual demands should be higher. Following are recommended workstation postures:

Sitting is recommended when:

  • All items are within reach.
  • No large forces (more than ten (10) lbs.) are required.
  • Fine assembly/writing is done the majority of the time.
  • Foot controls are utilized.

Standing is recommended when:

  • No knee clearance for seated operations is provided.
  • Objects weighing more than ten (10) lbs. are handled.
  • Operations are physically separated and require frequent movement between workstations

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