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Effects of leg activity and ambient barometric pressure on foot swelling and lower-limb skin temperature during 8 h of sitting

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Prolonged immobilization in an upright position often leads to discomfort and oedema in the feet of otherwise healthy subjects. To determine the significance of leg activity and ambient pressure on oedema formation, skin temperature (Tsk) and discomfort, 6 volunteers sat for 8 h with one leg immobilized and the other spontaneously active; one day at “sea level” (750 mmHg) and one day at reduced barometric pressure (540 mmHg). Foot swelling was measured by water plethysmography. Leg movements were continuously monitored by a Vitalog computer, and foot discomfort was estimated by analog-visual scales. The 8 hour swelling averaged 5.7% in the inactive foot, and 2.7% in the active foot (p<0.001). Tsk of the inactive foot levelled off towards ambient temperature (21 ° C) within 4 h. For the active foot this fall was reduced by 2–3 ° C (p<0.025). The increase in foot discomfort during the day was lowest in the active foot (p<0.005). High foot Tsk was associated with a high foot swelling rate. Reduced ambient barometric pressure had no effects on foot swelling or Tsk. It is concluded that modest leg activity during 8 h of sitting has several effects on the circulation in the feet: some effects promote and some prevent oedema formation. However, the net result is a reduction in foot swelling.

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Correspondence to J. Winkel.

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Noddeland, H., Winkel, J. Effects of leg activity and ambient barometric pressure on foot swelling and lower-limb skin temperature during 8 h of sitting. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 57, 409–414 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00417985

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Key words

  • Muscle pump
  • Skin temperature
  • Discomfort
  • Oedema
  • Barometric pressure