Prolonged Sitting and its Impact on Health

Energy consumption of the body is very minimal in the sitting and sleeping posture, prolonged sitting has been linked to many acute and chronic health related problems. In the current period of COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdown status has made all of us stay at home and away from our routine work, this definitely caused all of us to spend most of our time sitting in one place and watch TV or other entertainment media on electronic gadgets.

The well established link between prolonged sitting and chronic health related problems are increased blood sugar, increased blood pressure, increased body fat around the waist (cholesterol) content. There is a syndrome called metabolic syndrome which contains all these three together, this complex health related issue leads to many life threatening diseases related to the cardiovascular system and cancer.

When it comes to acute problems related to the prolonged sitting formation of a blood clot in the legs called as deep venous thrombosis (DVT)is a serious clinical condition.

There are certain risk factors that make the development of DVT more prone, these are if the person is overweight/obese, on certain medications like oral contraceptive pills, if the person is pregnant or recently undergone any major orthopaedic surgeries. One most common risk factor which contributes majorly to the DVT is tobacco smoking

Anyone with above risk factors sits in a single place without having any physical activity will have increased stasis of blood in the blood vessel this along with pre-existing risk factors for increased blood clotting ability in the body and injury to the inner aspect of the blood vessel forms a triad called Virchow’s triad. This triad is the base to develop a blood clot (thrombus) inside the blood vessel leading to the development of DVT.

What is the fate of DVT? 

The worst fate of DVT from the lower or upper limbs is, it can get dislodge from the extremities and can get lodged in the outlet of the right side of the heart leading to a life threatening event called pulmonary thromboembolism (PE). Once PE has happened in any person and if it blocks more than 50% of the outflow from the right side of the heart, it leads sudden onset of breathing difficulty, increase in heart rate, decrease in blood pressure and if it is severe can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Other minor immediate problems of prolonged sitting in the locked in period are, it can lead to compression of the nerve at the pressure points, swelling of lower extremities particularly in patients with heart or kidney disease.

Many scientific studies suggested that prolonged sitting in a place more than eight hours is equal to that of the consequences of smoking and obesity, this effect can be nullified if the person performs moderate to intense exercise for at least 45minute to an hour.

Start practice standing whenever you get a chance in between your work from home option as a result of lockdown.

The following are some healthy tips to practice and break prolonged sitting.

  • At least break the prolonged sitting once in 30 to 45 minutes
  • Consider standing posture when having a conversation with other person face to face
  • Use a standing desk to keep the desktop or lap top if you are working from home
  • Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.

Dr. Harish MM, Consultant – Anaesthesia & Critical Care | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra

Narayana Health

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