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What Are Anti-Fatigue Mats?

 Anti-fatigue mats are ergonomic floor mats that minimise fatigue from prolonged standing on hard surfaces. Made typically from rubber or specialised foam, these mats provide a softer surface to stand on, offering cushioning and support to ease stress on the feet and legs.

Anti-fatigue mats are often used in places where prolonged standing is inevitable, such as industrial sites, retail counters, kitchens, and offices with standing desks. This guide will detail what anti-fatigue mats are and the key factors to consider before choosing one. 

What Are Anti-Fatigue Mats?

Anti-fatigue mats are specialised floor mats designed to alleviate physical stress and boost blood circulation, thereby reducing fatigue. These mats play a crucial role in environments where standing for extended periods is a norm.

Anti-Fatigue Mat in use

When you stand, your muscles continuously work against gravity to maintain an upright posture. Prolonged standing, however, leads to muscle constriction and reduced blood flow, causing discomfort and aches in muscles and joints. This sustained stress can contribute to chronic fatigue and long-term health issues.

The heart, in response to these constricted muscles, exerts more effort to circulate blood, leading to increased energy expenditure. This additional strain manifests as pain, discomfort, and overall fatigue.

Anti-fatigue mats, often utilised in industrial settings, provide a significant benefit for workers who spend most of their day on their feet, particularly on hard surfaces. The design of these mats encourages subtle movements of the leg and calf muscles, promoting better blood flow. This not only reduces fatigue but also minimises the stress on the body, enhancing the well-being and productivity of workers.

By cushioning and supporting the feet, these mats offer a more comfortable standing experience, making them a valuable addition to any workspace where prolonged standing is required.

How do Anti-Fatigue Mats Work?

Anti-Fatigue Mats work by improving circulation around the body, which is done by creating constant micro-movements in the leg muscles. The soft surface of the mat is not only comfortable, easing pressure on your knees and back, but also creates a small amount of instability which encourages your leg muscles to activate.

This allows you to evenly distribute the pressure caused by standing up across both legs so that one is not trying to support more weight than the other, which will give you a better posture and means that you won’t be putting increased stress on any of your joints.

 

Anti-Fatigue Mat Profile
Cross-section of an Anti-Fatigue Mat

 

 

Frequently making natural changes to your position will reduce tension in your shoulders and neck, alleviate headaches, and take pressure off your back.

These movements also mean that your Venous pumps will be active, so blood will be pumped back to the heart rather than pooling in your lower limbs and causing discomfort. You will be less likely to suffer from blood circulatory problems, which you can be at risk of if your heart has to work harder, as this puts more pressure on the veins.

In addition, anti-fatigue mats help by providing a softer, warmer surface to stand on, as standing on a cold hard floor lowers your body temperature, which results in your heart having to work harder to warm you up, also causing fatigue.

Do Anti-Fatigue Mats Actually Work?

Anti-Fatigue Mats have been proven to work by numerous studies, which all show that businesses using these mats report reductions in staff absences whilst increasing staff morale and productivity.

In a study at the Center of Ergonomics at the University of Michigan in 1987, Ergonomist Mark Redfern concluded that different standing surfaces could dramatically affect physical fatigue. Workers who stood on anti-fatigue mats were able to reduce the level of fatigue and discomfort by as much as 50%

It is often assumed that fatigue only occurs when we haven’t had enough sleep or when we’ve been physically active all day, but simply standing in one position for an extended period of time can cause fatigue and some serious health problems.

One of the reasons for this is due to a part of our anatomy called the Venous pump. With each step we take, our calf muscles contract and squeeze blood back up towards our heart; the veins even contain valves to control the direction of blood flow.

However, when we stand still, this process does not work as it only springs into action when our leg muscles relax and contract like they do when we walk, run, or participate in other exercises.

The result is that blood pools in the lower limbs, and the heart has to pump it back around the body by itself, which causes us to feel more fatigued.

 

Venous Pump Mechanism
The Venous Pump in action

 

This blood pooling in the legs and the increased pressure on joints causes pain and discomfort, which can eventually result in a work-related musculoskeletal disorder if not diagnosed and treated where necessary.

Due to gravity's effect on our bodies because of our upright position, we are designed to be moving rather than standing still as when we are stationary, our muscles are required to tense to stop us from losing our balance. This causes greater fatigue too.

A study by Loughborough University found that just 90 minutes of continuous standing can cause an individual to feel uncomfortable, which may seem like a short amount of time to someone who spends their whole working day on their feet. 

Benefits of Anti-Fatigue Mats

What are the other Benefits of Anti-Fatigue Mats?

So now you know how Anti-Fatigue Mats work, the next question you might ask is how beneficial they really are. There are many benefits that you or your workforce can expect to enjoy, such as;

Improved Posture

Standing up puts lots of pressure on the joints due to the vertical weight they need to support during long periods of standing. An Anti-Fatigue Mat can reduce this stress by ensuring that you make natural, frequent changes to your standing position, which means that your weight can be spread evenly between both feet.

Reduces circulatory problems

Blood flows more freely around the body when standing up rather than sitting down, but when the body isn’t moving, the heart has to work harder to ensure that blood is pumped around the whole body, which puts added pressure onto the vein network.

However, using an Anti-Fatigue Mat helps muscles and veins relax, so the heart isn’t under as much stress and reduces the risk of circulatory problems.

Reduces joint and muscle pain

When standing on a hard floor for hours, your joints often become stiff, leading to shoulder and neck pain.

Pain in these areas tends to result in tension headaches which can affect your ability to work. Still, when you use an Anti-Fatigue Mat, the cushioning beneath your feet will mean less pressure on the body so that these headaches can be a thing of the past and overall joint pain will be reduced.

Increases productivity

Suppose you’re not feeling comfortable at work and battling various aches and pains daily. In that case, this will mean that you are less productive due to being distracted by how you feel, plus you use up to 20% more energy when standing, which means you will tire quickly.

In addition, fatigue can set in after just 90 minutes of standing, which means you won’t feel like your best self.

An Anti-Fatigue Mat can combat these issues and increase your productivity in the workplace which means that it is both an investment in your health and wellbeing and one which will benefit the company you work for too.

Reduces risk of slipping

It is a known fact that slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury within the workplace, which is not only bad news for companies who may temporarily lose employees.

Many Anti-Fatigue Mats boast a ribbed surface and are made from non-slip materials. Standing on one of these reduces the likelihood of slipping while at work and can help prevent you from being another casualty to add to this worrying statistic.

How Long do Anti-Fatigue Mats Last?

The lifespan of an Anti-Fatigue mat depends on many factors, such as:

  • Is the mat being used in a dry or wet area?
  • Are oils or chemicals spilt onto its surface?
  • What the mat is made from
  • How frequently it is used

Therefore, it's impossible to offer any general guidance regarding how long a mat may last. Still, if you speak to a specialist retailer, they will be able to recommend which types of mats are most suitable for you based on your circumstances.

What are Anti-Fatigue Mats Made From?

Some of the most common materials used when manufacturing these mats are; natural rubber, vinyl, PVC, polyurethane and foam.

Foam-based mats are suitable for dry areas only (the occasional splash of water or cleaning with a damp cloth won't hurt); they generally work better in light to medium-duty areas, such as packaging areas or production lines.

Vinyl-topped mats often use the same foam centre to provide comfort, with a Vinyl top surface that is considerably more durable. These are more resistant to wear and are suitable for use in heavy-duty areas or where trolleys and other heavy items may be placed on the mats.

 

Foam Mat next to Rubber Mat
A Foam type mat (left) next to a Rubber mat (right)

 

Rubber mats won't feel as comfortable as their foam counterparts due to the higher density of the materials, but they are more durable and resistant to water. If you're working with a lathe or CNC milling machine, then a rubber anti-fatigue mat with holes will always be the best option.

How Thick Should Anti-Fatigue Mats Be?

Whilst you may think that the thicker the mat, the better it will be for you, this is not necessarily the case. Anti-Fatigue Mats are soft by design as this creates the slight instability needed for them to work, but if they are too soft, they won't provide the stability required for you to work safely whilst standing on them.

The recommended Anti-Fatigue Mats sizes are;

  • 6mm - For very light-duty and occasional use only
  • 9mm - This is the most popular thickness for Anti-Fatigue Mats and is suitable for most medium-duty and continuous-use applications
  • 10mm to 12mm - Not as common as the 9mm versions, but should be considered for medium to heavy-duty use (depending on the model).
  • 14mm - Heavy-duty mats are often thicker because they are made with more dense materials such as rubber or have protective vinyl layers over the foam centre to provide extra durability.

 

Where can Anti-Fatigue Mats be Used?

Anti-Fatigue Mats can be beneficial in any line of work where standing for long periods can't be avoided. Some of the most popular places they are used include:

  • Workshops for machining and assembly
  • Production lines
  • Packaging and despatch areas
  • Welding bays
  • Distribution and fulfilment centres
  • Checkouts and other retail areas
  • Commercial kitchens
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants
  • Baber's and hair salons

Are Anti-Fatigue Mats Required by Law?

In the UK, employers are not legally required to provide staff with Anti-Fatigue Mats. However, according to The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, introduced in 1992, workstations must be suitable for workers so they won’t slip or fall. A seat along with a convenient footrest should also be provided when appropriate.

As a result of these changes, anti-fatigue mats became a recommended feature in every workplace.
 

Anti-Fatigue Mats Infographic:

 

Why Use Anti-Fatigue Mats Infographoc

References:

 - The effects of Long Term Standing - WebMD

 - Mark Redfern Study, University of Pittsburgh

 - Loughborough University Study into Anti-Fatigue Mats

 

 

 

Author:

Richard O'Connor's Headshot

Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

Contact Richard



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