How a Sedentary Lifestyle Can Affect Your Feet

In this age of remote work and desk-bound jobs, it’s easy to neglect our physical health, especially our feet. But did you know that a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on foot health? The good news is that by taking simple steps to prioritize your foot health, you can avoid discomfort and pain in your feet, as well as potential injuries. 

From swollen feet to plantar fasciitis, we’ll explore the many ways a sedentary lifestyle can affect your feet and provide practical tips on how to keep your feet healthy and happy while working from home. So, sit back, put your feet up, and read on to discover the importance of maintaining foot health in a sedentary lifestyle.

What Counts as a Sedentary Lifestyle?

A sedentary lifestyle involves little or no physical activity. It’s generally characterized by prolonged periods of sitting or lying down with very little movement or exercise. In the language of sports enthusiasts, this means doing fewer than 5,000 steps a day

Photo by Aleks Michajlowicz:

How Does Physical Activity Affect Foot Health?

Foot health and physical activity are closely intertwined. Regular physical activity can help to improve foot health by increasing your circulation, strengthening your muscles, and improving your flexibility. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle, such as working from home, can have a negative impact on the health of your entire body, particularly your feet. 

Think of it this way: When you’re physically active, your feet are constantly moving. This helps to increase blood flow and promote healthy circulation in the body. Physical activity also helps to strengthen the muscles in the feet, ankles, and legs, which can improve overall foot health and prevent injuries. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to keep your legs and feet moving, even when you’re working from home.

What Are the Health Risks of Inactivity?

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a number of foot problems, such as: 

Swelling and Edema

Prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to swollen feet and ankles. When you sit or stand for extended periods, your body has to work harder to circulate blood and fluids back up to your heart. This can cause blood and fluid to pool in your feet and ankles, leading to swelling and edema. 

Edema is a condition that’s characterized by the buildup of fluid in the body’s tissues. This is because gravity pulls fluid down into these areas, and if your blood and fluid circulation are not functioning optimally, fluid can accumulate there. Prolonged periods of sitting or standing, wearing tight clothing or shoes, and certain medications can all contribute to edema.

Poor Circulation

Poor circulation in the feet is a common problem for people with a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting or standing in the same position for long periods can restrict blood flow to the feet and legs, leading to poor circulation. Poor circulation can cause any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or toes.
  • Cold feet.
  • Swelling in the feet and ankles.
  • Foot pain or cramping, especially during activity.
  • Slow wound healing. 
  • Increased risk of infection.

Cramping, Numbness, and Tingling Sensations

When you’re sitting in an awkward position for a long time, such as when you’re working at your desk with your feet tucked up under you, your muscles can lock up and become stiff. This can lead to cramping and discomfort. Pressure can also build up on the nerves in your feet, leading to numbness or tingling sensations, known as “pins and needles.”

Reduced Range of Motion

Inactivity can cause stiffness and pain in the feet and joints, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition such as plantar fasciitis or flat feet. Sitting or standing for lengthy periods can reduce flexibility in the feet, leading to decreased range of motion and mobility. This makes it harder to perform everyday activities such as walking, bending, and standing.

Tips for Improving Foot Health

All these issues can lead to discomfort, pain, and even long-term foot problems that can affect your overall quality of life. Whether you’re working from home or simply predisposed to a sedentary lifestyle, here are some tips for taking care of your feet:

  • Appropriate footwear: Wear comfortable, well-fitting, and supportive shoes, even if you work from home, going barefoot can cause lots of issues in the feet. Wear shoes that provide arch support, cushioning, breathability, and stability. Avoid tight-fitting shoes or clothing that can restrict blood circulation.
  • Stretches: Stretch your feet and toes regularly to keep them limber and prevent cramping and stiffness in your feet. Try simple exercises such as flexing and extending your toes, rotating your ankles, and rolling a tennis ball under your feet. Stand up and stretch the calf muscles regularly, this will help cramps of the calf and lower leg muscles. 
  • Stay hydrated: Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to help prevent foot swelling and improve your circulation.
  • Elevate your feet: Prop up your feet above your heart for a few minutes each day to help reduce swelling and improve circulation in your lower legs and feet. 
  • Take regular breaks: Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around, allowing the blood to flow freely to your legs and feet.
  • Use ergonomic equipment: Use ergonomic chairs, footrests, and anti-fatigue mats that provide proper support for your feet.
  • Ask the experts: If you’re unsure, we recommend seeking advice from a podiatrist.

Visit Our Gurnee & Chicago, IL Podiatry Practices

If you’re experiencing persistent pain or discomfort in your feet, we recommend you make an appointment with a foot specialist, such as Dr. Schoene or Dr. Bever in Chicago. Regardless of your ailment, we can work with you to develop a treatment plan that includes physical therapy, stretching exercises, and other strategies to improve your overall foot health.