Researchers warn about the risk of excessive-sitting, and developing a common and potentially fatal blood clot. What can you do to prevent it?
The sitting problem
A year ago, during my dietetic internship, I developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I learned the scary way that blood clots can happen to anyone, at any age and any health status. When I look back on it now, I can partially link it to my excessive sitting during certain hospital rotations. And probably years of sitting at my desk, studying for exams or writing papers.
It’s crazy how our sedentary lifestyles allow us to sit for most of the day without realizing it. Our bodies are designed to stand and move for long periods of time, and we automatically shift our weight and move around while standing. Standing naturally prevents both the repetitive stress and muscle breakdown that is caused by sitting.
What are the risks of sitting too much?
We know that sitting is bad, and most of us feel a little guilty after sitting at work all day followed by TV time on the couch. Research in the past has linked sitting for long periods of time with weight gain, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Now, a new study focused on the risk of TV viewing, found that you could develop a common and potentially fatal blood clot in your vein, called DVT.
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins, to dangerous blood clots. Another serious problem is when this clot becomes dislodged and travels through the blood stream, it blocks off another vein somewhere else in the body. If it ends up in the lungs, it can cause blood clots known as pulmonary embolism which damages your lungs.
The solution: Break up the sitting
I used to compensate for sitting all day by hitting the gym – until I found out this doesn’t prevent the risk of a blood clot. The answer is to break up the sitting periods. Taking a break from sitting can benefit your health and productivity.
Tips to get moving during the day:
– Try sitting on something wobbly such as an exercise ball or even a backless stool to force your core muscles to work. My exercise ball has been a life saviour at work! It keeps my core engaged and I find myself moving around more on it. A bonus is good posture and higher productivity.
– Alternate between sitting and standing at your work station. If you can’t do that, stand up every half hour or so and walk. Try a walking meeting, use phone calls as a way to get away from your desk, and get co-workers together for a lunch walk.
When watching TV
– Try walking during commercial breaks. Even a snail-like pace would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better. Squats, lunges and planks are usually my favourite – here are more ideas.
– Take stretch breaks and try some yoga poses. I’ll sometimes just chase my dog around the house to get me (and him) moving!