Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The risks of…sitting?

Are you sitting down? Chances are, you are! It seems like our whole world was designed to keep us in a seated position, usually in front of a screen, whether during work or leisure time.

Earlier this year, a recent article found that this overwhelmingly sedentary behavior increases our risk of getting preventable conditions, even if we exercise. The studies showed that physical inactivity (the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world, according to the World Health Organization) can lead to premature death from cardiovascular issues and cancer, as well as cause chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.

Too much sitting can also increase the risk of getting varicose veins—and if you already have vein issues, you may notice that symptoms get worse after sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Why? The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body through the arteries. Veins then carry blood from all the extremities back up to the heart. The blood in the legs travels up against gravity, so when the valves in the veins become damaged, blood flows back into the legs which leads to a “pooling” of blood in the veins that can manifest as varicose veins or spider veins. 

When you sit (or stand) in the same position for a long time, the blood doesn’t circulate properly and, over time, this can lead to varicose veins.

There are a several ways to help reduce the risk of getting varicose veins from sitting for too long:
  • Sit properly. Focus on good posture and avoid crossing your legs or sitting in ways that can compress veins for prolonged periods.
  • Elevate. Occasionally, rest your legs above your heart – for as long as 30 minutes or as briefly as three minutes. (For more tips on elevation, click here.)
  • Take a break. Take frequent walking breaks to avoid sitting or standing for periods of more than two hours.
  • Pump it. If you can’t move around that often – or are flying on an airplane – try flexing and pointing your foot to get the blood moving in your legs. (Click here to learn more about “the foot pump.”)
Of course, the best way to reduce your risk of getting varicose veins from sitting all day is to move around more – and be aware of just how much time you spend sitting down.

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