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The Impact of Prolonged Sitting on Legs

26 April 2021

Do you have a desk job, and therefore end up sitting for prolonged periods? You may not realize it yet, but there are plenty of health issues associated with physical inactivity at work. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of Americans sit for more than 8 hours every day. 44% of Americans do not engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity. Given the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, this type of behavior can have long-lasting impacts on your health. Read on as we discuss the problems with sitting for too long, why sitting is slowly killing you, and how it affects your legs. 

What Are the Problems With Sitting for Too Long

Standing upright helps your heart and cardiovascular system function more effectively. Naturally, sitting can have the opposite effect. Let’s take a look at some of the key problems with sitting for too long and the impact of prolonged sitting on your legs:

1. The Muscles in Your Legs Can Weaken 

When you sit for extended periods of time, you don’t use your leg and gluteal muscles. These muscles help in holding you up. They support and stabilize your body. If these muscles are not used regularly, they can atrophy. Muscle atrophy is the wasting away of muscles. It leads to the loss of muscle tissue. If your leg muscles atrophy, you are at an increased risk of injury from falls. You can also injure these muscles when exercising. 

2. You Can Develop Varicose Veins 

One of the health issues associated with physical inactivity at work is that you can develop varicose veins in your legs. Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins. They usually appear on your legs and feet. 

Varicose veins develop when blood is unable to flow back properly to your heart. This usually occurs when the tiny valves in your vein stop functioning properly. When this happens, blood can flow back and collect in your veins, causing them to become swollen. 

Sitting for too long can create a similar effect. In this case, the blood pools in your legs, leading to varicose veins. Varicose veins are usually harmless. However, they can give your legs an unseemly appearance. 

You can treat varicose veins by:

  • Wearing compression stockings

  • Exercising regularly 

  • Keeping your legs and feet elevated when resting 

3. You Can Experience Deep Vein Thrombosis 

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition where a blood clot can form in your veins. These blood clots usually form in your lower leg or thigh. However, they can develop in other parts of your body too. The reason why sitting is slowly killing you is because it increases your chances of developing this condition. 

Some of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Swelling in leg, ankle, or feet

  • Experiencing cramps in the affected leg 

  • Temperature difference with one area of the skin feeling warmer than surrounding areas 

  • A reddish or bluish hue appearing on the skin present over the affected area

Like with varicose veins, reduced physical activity and sitting for prolonged periods can cause blood to collect in the legs. It can also cause blood flow to the lower parts of your body to slow down, leading to a clot. If a part of this blood clot breaks off, it can travel to other parts of the body and cut off blood flow. If the clot enters your lungs and obstructs blood flow, you can experience a pulmonary embolism. This is a life-threatening condition that can create major complications. 

It is vital that you avoid sitting for long periods to prevent such medical problems. You can also exercise more and try and be more mobile, so that blood flow through your legs remains normal. 

Besides your legs, other parts of your body suffer too when you sit for too long. This can lead to other problems, such as:

4. You Can Gain Weight 

One of the problems with sitting for too long is that you are likely to gain weight. Staying physically active enables your body to digest the sugars and fats you consume. This process is disrupted when you sit for long periods, and your digestion process becomes inefficient. As a result, your body ends up retaining the fats and sugar and stores them as fat. This can lead to obesity. 

It’s important to spend at least 60 to 75 minutes every day engaging in moderately intense physical activity to counter these effects. 

5. The Muscles in Your Hips Can Suffer 

Sitting for prolonged periods can also hurt your hips. When you sit, the flexor muscles in your hip can shorten. This can create problems in your hip joints. 

If you have poor posture, then you can also experience hip pain when sitting. This is particularly common when you don’t have proper hip and back support, thereby placing pressure on the hips. Sitting for a long period with a bad posture can also cause the tendons in your hips to stretch. This can lead to a condition called tendinitis, where your hip tendons become inflamed. As a result, you can experience pain in your hips when you sit, walk, or lie down.  

6. It Can Hurt Your Back 

Besides your hips and legs, sitting and having a poor posture can lead to chronic back pain and impact your spine health. You can experience compression in your spine discs, which can result in premature degeneration. This is a very painful condition. 

We recommend maintaining a good posture or getting an ergonomically designed chair to avoid such problems. 

7. You Can Suffer from Heart Disease and Diabetes 

Another reason why sitting is slowly killing you is that it rapidly increases your chances of getting heart disease. According to a study, men that spend 23 hours a week watching television are 64% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. In comparison, men who watch only 11 hours of television during the week are much less likely to develop a cardiovascular condition. 

A study suggests that a sedentary lifestyle can also increase your risk of getting diabetes by 112%. 

What Can You Do About It?

There are several ways to deal with the problems that result from sitting for too long. You can:

1. Take Regular Breaks 

Instead of spending multiple hours in the same position, you can try taking a break from your work every 30 minutes or every hour. Take a moment to stretch your muscles and take a short walk when you do this. This can prevent blood from pooling into your legs and avoid other problems. 

2. Stand When You Talk on the Phone 

If you are working from home, you likely receive a number of phone calls during the day. When you do, we recommend getting up from your seat and standing when you talk on the phone. This can help you take a break from sitting for prolonged periods while still doing something productive. 

3. Invest in a Standing Desk 

If you have a desk job and end up sitting for long periods daily, then you can also get a standing desk. A height-adjustable desk is the best option here. It can allow you to alternate between sitting and standing during the day. Ideally, you can sit for one to two hours and then stand for one hour. 

4. Keep Your Work Surface Over a Treadmill 

You can also get a treadmill-ready vertical desk. You can use these desks to place your computer screen and keyboard on a surface above the treadmill. This can help you exercise and stay in motion throughout. 

5. Get a Specialized Fitness Chair 

If a standing desk or a treadmill-ready vertical desk doesn’t sound like your thing, you can always get a specialized fitness chair. For instance, the Sit2Go Fitness Chair offers the ideal solution to sitting for long periods while keeping your legs in motion. 

What sets this chair apart is that it comes with pedals that help you exercise your legs while you work. This can help you remain productive while doing what you need to do to avoid the health issues associated with physical inactivity at work.

This chair also works well in a professional work environment. Instead of sitting in your regular office chair, you can use this chair while working and enjoy a superior and more comfortable sitting experience. Other notable features include a supportive seat cushion and a breathable mesh backrest. The chair is also height adjustable. 

Wrapping It Up 

The problems with sitting for too long are that it can hurt the muscles in your legs and cause them to become weak. Spending a significant part of the day sitting can also increase your chances of developing varicose veins in your legs or suffer from deep vein thrombosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. Besides this, you can gain weight and experience hip pain.

Getting a Sit2Go Fitness chair offers a great solution to these problems. This chair comes equipped with pedals that let you exercise your legs while you are working. Visit FlexiSpot today to learn more!