Movement is essential for health. Physical activity and exercise can not only protect blood vessel, heart, and lung health, but it can also support overall longevity.
If you’re like many Americans, the events over the last 20 months have led to a change in your daily habits. The pandemic forced gyms and other indoor recreational facilities across the nation to close, which meant many people weren’t getting their regular dose of much-needed exercise. People were asked to stay home and stay safe, further altering their daily routine and limiting their physical activity. While understandable given the circumstances, the pandemic has left many people living a sedentary lifestyle, significantly impacting vein health and circulation.
What is a sedentary lifestyle?
A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle involves plenty of sitting and lying down, with very little to no exercise. Examples of sedentary behavior include:
- Watching television
- Playing video games
- Using a computer
- Sitting at school or work
- Sitting while commuting
Unless you are doing at least 30 minutes of intentional exercise per day, you are considered sedentary. An inactive lifestyle negatively affects your body in the following ways:
- You burn fewer calories.
- You lose muscle strength.
- Your bones may get weaker.
- Your metabolism decreases.
- Your immune system may not work as well.
- You may have poorer blood circulation.
- You may have more inflammation.
- You may develop a hormonal imbalance.
Three leading health risks of a sedentary lifestyle
When you don’t get enough regular physical activity, you increase your risk of:
When you’re overweight or obese, there’s excess pressure on the veins in your lower legs, which can damage the valves inside them. Vein valves are responsible for pushing blood up toward your heart. When they become weakened or damaged, blood pools inside the vein, leading to swelling, a condition known as varicose veins. In some cases, untreated varicose veins can lead to more severe health conditions like blood clots, bleeding, and skin ulcers.
- Heart disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with oxygenated blood become damaged or diseased. This condition is often the result of a prolonged sedentary lifestyle, chronic dehydration, poor diet (greasy or processed foods), and smoking. A person with heart disease and varicose veins has a higher risk for leg swelling and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually located in the leg.
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. If left untreated, it can lead to heart disease and stroke. Chronic high blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which restricts blood flow to your organs and tissues. When compared to people with normal blood pressure, people with hypertension are more likely to develop coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
If you’ve been living an inactive or sedentary lifestyle since the start of the pandemic or longer, you could have an increased risk of vein disease. If you’re experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a Virginia Vein Care location near you for expert care and treatment:
- Achy, heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping, and swelling in your legs
- Worsened pain after long periods of sitting or standing still
- Itching around one or more of your veins
- Skin discoloration around a visible varicose vein
Three easy ways to break out of a sedentary lifestyle
If you’re worried about your vein health and are looking for easy ways to increase your physical activity, here are a few daily habits you can incorporate to break away from a sedentary lifestyle:
- Park further away
Parking at the farthest parking spot when you’re out shopping is an easy way to incorporate more walking into your day.
- Take the stairs
If you can take the stairs or the escalator, always choose the stairs. It will enhance your heart and lung function, improve blood circulation, and reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and colon cancer.
- Move your body
Make small changes to incorporate more movement into your day. Get up and move around at least once an hour, stand when you’re on the phone or take a brisk daily walk.
Our vein care specialists will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to determine which comprehensive vein treatment is right for you.