Why Does Standing Make You More Sore Than Walking?

You know that physical activity makes your muscles sore, so why does standing seem to make you more sore than walking?

I was at a rally and march over the weekend here in Atlanta, and this was a hot topic. While we were listening to speakers in the spot where we first gathered, everyone’s feet, legs and backs were getting stiff and sore. As soon as we started walking the route, though, we began to feel better. Why is it so hard to stand in one place? I dug into this topic a bit, to see what happens to our bodies when we stand versus when we move around.

What Happens When You’re Standing Still

It turns out there isn’t much stillness happening when we ‘stand still.’ A Gizmodo article explains that when we stand, we are actually swaying ever-so-slightly in order to stay upright. Unlike when you’re walking or even running, your muscles get no break from these small contractions. Our calves, for example, were constantly working as we stood at that Sunday afternoon rally.

Walking, on the other hand, mixes things up. When you shift your weight to your right leg, your left leg gets a quick break. You’re also using a variety of muscle sets, rather than putting constant pressure on a few, like you do when you stand still.

Circulation is another factor that makes standing harder on your body than walking. When you walk, your heartrate goes up, which keeps blood and lymph fluids circulating. Standing, on the other hand, doesn’t raise your heartrate, so those fluids succumb to gravity, pooling in your feet and lower legs. This reduced circulation means that less oxygen is getting to your muscles, which causes soreness.

What about standing desks?

Prolonged standing causes more than sore muscles. Back in 2011, when standing desks were first getting popular, Time talked to ergonomics expert Alan Hedge, who warned that going from a traditional desk to standing all day is risky.

Hedge explained that standing all day strains your circulatory system. It actually increases your risk of carotid atherosclerosis and varicose veins. Standing at a computer all day also increases your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, because you extend your wrists differently when you’re using a keyboard while standing.

Instead of a standing desk, Hedge recommends making your workstation as ergonomic as possible and taking frequent breaks to stand or walk. Grab a coffee, do a quick stretch, then get back to your desk.

Coping with Prolonged Standing

Not everyone has the option to switch to a seated desk or the ability to take breaks every 20 minutes. If you stand all day for work, there are some ways to make it easier on your body. According to Healthline:

  • Choose comfortable shoes, and make sure they fit your properly. The right shoes help support good posture and give you the arch support that your feet need.
  • Sneak in a stretch when you can. Even a quick stretch can help get your circulation going and give you some relief.
  • Practice RICE when you get home. If your legs or feet are sore after standing all day, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are your friends.

WebMD suggests that if you’re going to be standing for a prolonged period, you should take breaks and try to change position every 30 minutes.

So, was that hour I spent standing causing long-term damage to my health? Probably not. I think the take-away here is that, like most things, standing is fine in moderation. What I noticed at the rally is that people were naturally taking steps to give their muscles a break from the prolonged standing. People would stand on one foot, then the other. They’d switch to a squatting position or idly rotate their ankles. Some people wandered a bit through the crowd. They were all unconsciously taking expert advice on relieving the pain from prolonged standing, just by listening to their bodies.

Related at Care2

You know that physical activity makes your muscles sore, so why does standing seem to make you more sore than walking?

All images via Thinkstock.

63 comments

Philippa P
Philippa Powers6 days ago

Thanks.

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william Miller
william Miller6 days ago

thanks

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Leanne K
Leanne K7 days ago

Ive never thought of it along those lines. Thanks!

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Leanne K
Leanne K7 days ago

Always have a good bed and a good pair of shoes - when youre not in one, youre in the other!

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Bronwyn B
Bronwyn B9 days ago

Good article - thankyou for the information and comments on standing desks.

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Elena P
Elena Poensgen9 days ago

Thank you

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Elena P
Elena Poensgen9 days ago

Thank you

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara9 days ago

Glad you had a good time in the crowd.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara9 days ago

Horse not only have four legs to help them balance while standing and sleeping, they have suspensor tendons which lock in place to stop them falling.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara9 days ago

Thanks, interesting. So standing desks are not great? What about treadmill desks? I think mixing and moving is ideal.

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