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Health & Wellness

This Is a Serious Danger of Sitting Too Much

By on 07/16/2020

Our lives recently changed due to COVID-19, with effects we may not even be aware of. As we worked from home and spent less time going out, many of us became more sedentary than ever. Lunchtime walks with co-workers, exercise sessions at the gym and trips to the mall suddenly stopped. As our world became smaller, we spent more time sitting on the couch or at the computer. And even though we had more time, it often became difficult to motivate ourselves to get moving.

Although life is starting to return to normal, you may still find it hard to be as active as you once were. You may feel uneasy going to the gym, may still be working remotely and may have lost your motivation to make exercise a priority.

Not only is it important to stay physically active to maintain your overall health and to help you lose or maintain your weight, but when you sit too much you face a risk you likely never even thought of: a life-threatening blood clot.

Why Sitting Too Much Is Dangerous

Blood circulation slows when you sit for long periods of time. When this happens, blood cells may clump together, forming a clot. Clots most often develop in blood vessels in the lower legs due to prolonged inactivity – referred to as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If the clot travels to your brain, it can block normal blood flow and trigger a stroke. Clots can also travel to your heart or lung (pulmonary embolism), causing shortness of breath, pain or even death.

Symptoms of a blood clot in your leg include a cramp-like sensation or the skin over the clot may feel warm. But you may not experience any symptoms at all.

How to Prevent a Blood Clot

Just getting up and moving more is a simple, effective way to reduce your risk of dangerous blood clots. In one research study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, participants who sat less than 30 minutes at a time were less likely to die than those who didn’t take frequent breaks.

If you’ve gotten a little too comfortable on the couch, here are tips to move more and lower your risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot:

  • Set a timer: Schedule an activity break every 30 minutes. Take a lap around your house, office or yard, jog in place or do a few jumping jacks to get your blood flowing.
  • Use a standing desk: Standing helps improve blood circulation compared to sitting. If you use a standing desk, alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
  • Move whenever possible: Make everyday routines more active. Dance while cooking, clean the house with gusto or stand while folding laundry. Every bit of activity helps improve circulation.
  • Take breaks during road trips: If you’re traveling these days, you’re more likely to do it by car than via public transportation. Get out of the car every 30 – 60 minutes to stretch your legs.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 14, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.