The What, the How and the Why of Anti-Fatigue Mats
Dr. Karin Olson, with the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta, says: “It’s important to recognize the difference between tiredness and fatigue, because fatigue is a marker that the body is not able to keep up. The onset of the manifestations of fatigue, particularly if these are not normal states for you, should be taken seriously.” While anyone can grow tired of standing all day, there’s a distinct difference when we start to talk about fatigue, which for me, conjures up images of throbbing feet, aching legs, and nearly unbearable pain. No one should be subject to this sort of discomfort, especially not when rubberized anti-fatigue mats are a perfect solution to the problem. An ergonomic mat is specifically designed to act as a buffer between feet and a hard and unforgiving surface below. Whether the specialized cushion matting is being used on top of cold and hard concrete in some sort of industrial setting or atop of fine tile or hardwood in someone’s private residence—padded flooring will provide the same relief.
By making the mistake of confusing fatigue for tiredness you may think that you can just rest and that the discomfort that afflicts you will go away on its own. And that may be the case for short intervals. For example, an employee who works on their feet all day may feel better when they get home and relax—but unless the problem is resolved the next day, and the day after that, they’ll be greeted by the same pain and distress.
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About Anti-Fatigue Mats
Employing fatigue resistant mats is a sure way to resolve this issue. To better understand how these mats can help put an end to fatigue and pain, check out our breakdown of this remarkable material. As all good investigators know—the what, the how, and the why are a great way to examine something.
- What is an Ergonomic Mat?
Anti-fatigue mats are designed to alleviate the pain and strain of standing for prolonged periods of time, specifically when an individual has to stand upon a hard surface like concrete, tile, hardwood, or linoleum. Merely walking upon such a hard surface can cause fatigue, specifically because that surface is unforgiving and does not adhere to the shape of our feet. Someone said that walking on concrete is akin to having a hammer strike at the soles of our feet—just based on the downward force and weight behind each step. For that reason, cushion matting tends to be made out of supple and elastic materials that bend with the weight and shape of a foot while still supporting it.
There are number of different materials that can be used in the production of these mats, and often times their use will have a direct correlation with the applications they are meant to support. Also, the particular style in which a mat is offered will have a lot to do with its use—thicker mats offer more anti-fatigue resistance than thinner options. Here is a list of the most common materials used for padded flooring:
- Carpet—Not ideal for anti-fatigue applications, carpet does provide a warmer and somewhat softer surface, especially when placed in locations that see moisture.
- Foam (non-rubber) —A substance that is created when little pockets of gas are trapped in a solid mat. This is by far one of the most popular anti-fatigue options.
- Gel—These mats are filled with a dense gel and are another popular option.
- Vinyl—Mats made out of this material offer a tough surface, but aren’t as environmentally friendly as other options.
- Foam Rubber—Though similar to normal foam mats, rubber provides a much more durable and resilient matting option. Soft and mildly soft foam options are more adequate for individuals who will remain stationary in a single position rather than moving or walking around.
- Hard Rubber—Extremely durable, these mats are well suited for harsh and abrasive environments. This material will offer more support and while it is harder, the use of rubber still makes it more elastic and supple than concrete. This is a good choice in places where people have to stand, but also walk around.
How does Padded Flooring Work?
In order to have a good anti-fatigue surface you have to use a material that is elastic and supple—simply put—it has to offer more support (better support) than the current hard subsurface. When using rubber to make anti-fatigue mats, producers are employing a material that is naturally elastic. As Craig Freudenrich, Ph. D., explains, “ [rubber] is a specific type of polymer called an elastomer: a large molecule that can be stretched to at least twice its original length and returned to its original shape.” That’s why we feel a supportive surface we step on top of a rubberized ergonomic mat—that bounce and springiness is what makes this an excellent choice for cushion matting. And because rubber is such a malleable and workable material, it can be used to produce a foam-like substance, a harder surface, and even softer and more cushioned options.
Why Should You Use Cushion Matting?
As Jennifer VanBaren, an eHow contributor, describes, “standing all day is common in many industries. By standing all day, our bodies endure the natural force of gravity. Gravity naturally pulls the body down, which causes muscles to be tense constantly.” Apart from gravity, there’s also the tension of an unforgiving surface and the strain to keep constantly balanced—but an ergonomic mat can help with!
An article on Canadian Women’s Health Network, titled Preventing Work-Related injuries: Standing on the Job, compiles a startling list of potential risk factors from standing all day. And don’t be fooled, all of these afflictions can affect either gender indiscriminately.
- Swollen or painful feet or legs
- Plantar fasciitis (inflamed connective tissue that goes from heel to toe, supporting the arch)
- Stretched Achilles tendon (tendinitis)
- Varicose veins
- Knee problems
- Lower back pain
- Neck and shoulder stiffness
- Poor posture (and its effects)
- Restricted blood flow
- Increased chance of knee or hip arthritis
- Muscle soreness and fatigue
This is a long list of some pretty awful injuries and ailments. And there’s no need to run the risk of having to suffer through any of them! Rubberized anti-fatigue mats are affordable, durable, and easy to set up. Providing employees, customers, loved ones, and even yourself with high quality padded flooring has never been so easy.