We have an uncanny ability to spend hours on end just sitting down. Well, those of us who work “nine to five” (wink) in offices. Thanks to long hours chained to desks and lengthy commutes, many of us end up becoming one with our couches once we finally get home and then drag our tired behinds to bed. But this sedentary lifestyle can lead to swelling in your calves, ankles and feet. Yes, friends, we are talking about poor blood circulation.
A number of factors can contribute to swelling in your lower legs and feet, and one of them, unfortunately, is being overweight. So of course the No. 1 thing to do if you’re a few pounds over and having blood circulation issues is to start a diet and exercise routine — with your doctor’s nod of approval, of course — and try to get to your ideal weight.
Of course, inactivity is not the exclusive domain of those who are not in peak physical condition, so thin people — who are not necessarily in shape, by the way — can certainly find themselves in an uncomfortably puffy state. Sitting for hours on end without moving around isn’t good for you, regardless of your size.
You remember the warnings issued to travelers who go on flights lasting at least eight hours, don’t you? Well, just how it’s not good to remain crammed in the same position in that business-class window seat for eight hours, it’s not good for you to sit at your desk for 12 hours — coffee and bathroom breaks notwithstanding.
So here are eight things you can do during work — and after — to get that blood pumping.
Take a hike
Grab your pooch and go for a walk. Try to walk briskly, which your dog will very likely appreciate, especially after being cooped up at home all day waiting for you to get home. You not only get to enjoy some bonding time with your furball, but you also get the blood pumping.
It always boils down to stress, doesn’t it? If you’re overly stressed and notice that those tootsies are trying to Hulk-smash their way out of your favorite pair of Mary Jane shoes, then consider doing some breathing exercises, which you can totally do at your desk while working on that spreadsheet, or try to meditate for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Also consider listening to some music while you work, if you can.
Take the stairs
When you have to haul groceries and laundry bags up three flights of stairs in that walk-up you now actively hate, the last thing you want to do is take more stairs. But, in fact, stair-climbing is not only great exercise but also helps you stretch those calf muscles and get the blood flowing down your lower legs all the way to your tippy toes.
Have some blackstrap molasses
Here’s what we definitely know: It’s rich in iron and minerals that help your body produce red blood cells and support your immune system, which is why it’s often recommended for women who suffer from bad menstrual cramps and have fibroids or endometriosis.
Some people credit blackstrap molasses — the unsulfured kind! — with helping keep swelling down, which is not surprising given its anti-inflammatory properties. Two to three teaspoonfuls a day should do it. And don’t worry. Add it to oatmeal or sweeten your tea with it. Word on the street has it that it complements almond milk quite nicely as well.
Don’t pass on the spicy food
Well, if you can stand it and don’t suffer from any hiatal hernias or other gastroenterological issues, then go for it. Spicy food is a source of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is essentially a taxi service that shuttles fats and cholesterol in the water-based solution of your blood stream and helps your body dissolve any blood clots that may postentially form.
The capsaicin in hot peppers helps tackle inflammation, too, and because spicy foods are rich in vitamins A and C, they raise your body’s temperature, which increases blood flow and gets your blood swooshing around in there as it should.
Ginger and turmeric root
Ginger, similar to those spicy peppers, can help jumpstart that blood flow, as can turmeric root, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Think of it as the best traffic cop or crossing guard you’ll ever meet. Turmeric prevents clogs and bottlenecks and other annoying obstacles that will render your circulatory system sluggish and your blood from getting where it needs to go efficiently.
Stretch at work
Go on! Get up and grab those cubicle mates and do five minutes of stretching! Don’t be shy! Your eyes probably need the rest from staring at a computer screen all day only so you can park those peepers over an iPad or super duper shiny phone, and you’ll give your blood flow a nice boost.
Hey, we know how difficult it is to quit, but the idea here is to keep those blood vessels clear. Smoking constricts them, so you do the math. Having that extra smoke can not only land you a candidacy for all manner of lung diseases, including the Big C, but also give you puffy ankles.
Do you want puffy ankles? Tried everything to quit already? Here’s some reading material that might help. HellaWella was tipped off to Allen Carr’s book by a self-described skeptic who smoked for 15 years, actively hates self-help books of all kinds and yet still swears by this book. It’s worth a shot. Good luck. We have faith in you.