How to elevate your legs while sitting

Sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor for long periods is quite tiring. You can even experience foot swelling, heel pressure, and so much discomfort to the point of numbness.

After experiencing this dilemma, we started researching ways to ease and prevent pain and improve blood flow to the lower body while sitting, especially for office workers.

In this article, we have a complete guide on elevating your legs while sitting at a desk and other related necessities you must learn.

Let's get started!

Importance of Elevating Your Legs While Sitting at a Desk

Importance of elevated legs while working

Long hours of sitting can affect blood circulation as the blood flow pools in your lower legs, not following its usual route.

Sitting becomes risky if you maintain an upright sitting position for more than the 45-minute recommended sitting duration.

With restricted hemodynamics or blood flow, you are at a higher risk of limb, tendon, and muscle pain, numbness, swelling, the appearance of varicose veins, and even deep vein thrombosis (blood clots).

All of these factors mentioned show a pressing need to vary your movements throughout your work day. This includes occasionally elevating your legs.

Benefits of Leg Elevation

While it may initially seem impractical or unprofessional, the practice or exercise of elevating the legs has a lot of advantages and perks to offer desk job workers, especially on the physical health side.

To get a full picture of what we mean, here are some benefits of keeping your legs elevated while sitting at a desk:

  • Improve blood flow
  • Lower pressure on veins (and arteries) to preserve vein health
  • Reduce swelling
  • Prevent varicose veins
  • Relieves muscle tension

Health Concerns Regarding Leg Positioning at a Desk

Proper human leg positioning at a desk is an essential posture factor that enables healthy habits and improved quality of life. It also helps prevent sitting problems and other similar conditions.

In fact, how you position your legs can become a serious health issue when it is not given the utmost importance.

To give you an idea, here are some of the major health concerns regarding leg positioning at a desk:

  • Inappropriate leg positions can limit blood flow in the lower extremities (including the thigh and calves) and prompt adverse symptoms.
  • Sitting cross-legged for prolonged periods can affect skeletal muscle and the spinal cord's form, triggering or escalating scoliosis.
  • Sitting upright for long hours with your feet flat on the ground can cause swelling on the legs, ankles, and feet, also known as edema.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots are formed in the deep veins in the body, and it can even cause your skin to become warm.
  • Prolonged sitting will take a toll on your nerves and can damage and degenerate it in the long run, manifesting through related symptoms.

Is sitting with legs up bad for back?

While crossing legs or placing them up might feel comfortable, it's not always the best for your spinal health. This posture could force your upper body into a twisted position, causing discomfort in your back and hips over time.

Moreover, facets of your spine might be strained in the process, leading to potential harm. 

Why do I sit with my legs up on a chair?

Elevating your legs can have physiological benefits. When in such a position, your legs are above your heart level, providing natural assistance for circulation. Your cardiovascular system is relieved of the burden of fighting against gravity to return oxygen-deprived blood from your legs back to your heart.

This improves blood flow in your leg veins, which may be your subconscious body's way of promoting overall health. Knowing how to elevate your legs correctly while sitting at a desk can incorporate these benefits into your everyday routine.

Why people like sitting with their legs up

Apart from circulatory benefits, this position redistributes body weight, providing additional back support and relieving muscle strain. Many people find regular sitting uncomfortable.

Nestling legs on the chair or crossing them creates a sense of comfort. This posture not only lessens back strain but also promotes good blood flow, which can be achieved best when abiding by ergonomic posture guidelines.

Why can't I sit with my legs down?

If you have trouble maintaining your legs in a downward position, this could indicate deficiencies in the strength or flexibility of your lower body muscles—think glutes, hamstrings, and thighs.

Extended durations of this posture require endurance, strength, and suppleness, a deficiency in any of these can make it uncomfortable. When standing provides relief, it might be worth considering the benefits of a standing desk.

Sitting Cross-Legged On A Chair

While comfort varies from person to person, sitting cross-legged on a chair can be both routine and relieving for some of us. It's recommended to retain a 90-degree knee bend while seated for optimal blood flow, as well as encouraging overall good posture.

Although sitting cross-legged might attract curiosity, it doesn't inherently lead to discomfort or pain. Keeping within your comfort zone while respecting health guidelines would be our suggestion to improve posture while sitting at a desk.

    Reasons For Sitting With One Leg Over

    There are different possible reasons why people sit with one leg over the other. Some of them are:

    • It may be comfortable for them, as it allows them to take the weight off one of their legs.
    • It may be a way to improve the mechanics of the lower back and reduce the strain on it.
    • It may be a sign of anxiety, as crossing the legs increases the amount of self-contact, which is comforting.
    • It may be a gesture of dominance or ownership, as opening up the crotch or putting one leg over the armrest of the chair conveys confidence and power.

    Is it bad to sit with one leg tucked under?

    In the realm of posture, there's a notion of the "incorrect move". Sitting twisted or with a leg beneath the other can cause strain in the lower back, neck, and shoulders.

    Many ergonomic experts have echoed about the drawbacks of sitting with one leg on a chair: a twisted posture can lead to discomfort. Tucked legs or a rounded spine may result in tension in the shoulders, neck, and lower back. Ensuring a straight back and level gaze can often alleviate such strain.

    How to Elevate Your Legs While Sitting at a Desk

    How to elevate your legs whiwhile sitting at your desk

    Now that we have set things straight when it comes to elevating your legs, it is time to learn how to do this properly while sitting at a desk.

    This section will introduce the proper footrest usage, ergonomic chairs, and DIY solutions for elevating your legs while in the office.

    Proper Footrest Usage

    To properly utilise a footrest, place it under your feet at least 10 inches away from your body to ensure comfort and ergonomics.

    In this position, you can rest your soles as you transfer the rest of the pressure and weight onto the heels.

    It's also possible for you to lean back into your desk chair and relax your entire back over your lumbar support or soft pillow.

    PRO TIP: You should stay in this exercise position for five to eight minutes every 30 minutes of sitting.

    For those whose height is not enough for their feet to lay flat on the floor, investing in footrests is vital to prevent your legs from hanging while sitting on your office chair.

    By increasing circulation, this lessens the possibility of dealing with clogged blood vessels, limited blood flow, varicose veins, swelling, discomfort, and leg aches.

    Types of Footrests

    You can choose from different types of footrests depending on your preferences, work requirements, and personal needs.

    Here are some of the types that we think are helpful for desk job workers:

    • Active foot rest - This type keeps your feet and legs moving like regular exercise (i.e., walking), preventing unfavourable symptoms. It can be an exercise ball that rolls or a moving footrest that stretches your lower legs.
    • Memory foam foot rest - This type can adapt to the shape of your foot. It's comfortable enough to the point that it provides a soft place where you can place your feet and rest your knees and legs but firm enough to hold them in place above the ground or floor.
    • Adjustable foot rest - This type allows you to customise the height that suits your feet, ankles, knees, and legs.
    • Breathable mesh foot rest - This type is designed for office workers with sweat problems. This will help prevent or minimise the sweat you produce while allowing your feet and toes to rest.
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    Correct Positioning

    The correct positioning of a footrest is putting it under your feet, at a 10-inch distance away from your person.

    • Ensure that your legs and knees are at a 90-degree angle when you place your feet on top of the footrest.
    • Within five to eight minutes of placing your feet on top of the footrest, make sure to alternate the position by putting one foot off from time to time.

    Ergonomic Chairs for Leg Elevation

    If you want other options, the best one that follows footrests is an ergonomic chair created to enable elevation, exude comfort, prevent foot swelling, improve circulation, and maintain balance.

    An ergonomic chair is an office chair with everything you need when posture is concerned. Some of the features included in an ergonomically-correct chair are:

    • Breathable backrest
    • Supports head, back, hips, hands, feet, ankles, knees, legs, and even your toes
    • Has a recline or rocking feature
    • Adjustable height
    • Convenient wheels

    These features enable better overall health as they promote proper ergonomics in the workplace.

    Moreover, this type of chair is a more cost-efficient choice if you want to raise the ergonomics of your desk setup without buying different products like standing desks.

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    DIY Solutions for Leg Elevation

    There are solutions we can make for ourselves nowadays that perfectly capture the functions of expensive products in the market.

    Given our research and observation, here are some of the DIY solutions that you can try:

    • Elevating your legs while using a standing desk;
    • Using active footrests;
    • Utilising anti-fatigue mats; and
    • Investing in adjustable stools

    Elevating Your Legs While Using a Standing Desk

    You can place your legs on standing desks to change your position and add a simple stretch to your sitting routine.

    In doing this, ensure you raise it well enough to level with your heart to prevent unnecessary issues.

    But, this is not for everyone as some workers still need to adhere to office etiquette. Also, even if it's alright with your office rules, the elevation may disturb your officemates.

    That is why it's preferable for those with remote setups who enjoy the comfort of their homes while working.

    Active Footrests

    One of the types of footrests is an active footrest. A detail that we find interesting with this type of footrest is that while you can buy one on the market, you can improvise using items and materials found at home, such as:

    • A massage roller that has a height suitable to your needs
    • An exercise ball or a tennis ball, fitting your preferences
    • A curved footrest made out of wood
    • A firm but a smooth pillow

    Anti-fatigue Mats

    Another option that made our working hours more efficient is using anti-fatigue mats.

    With these mats, you can lessen the pressure and prevent fatigue on your feet, knees, and ankles. This type of mat is similar to a memory foam footrest as it takes the shape of your feet.

    As you are all aware, physical and mental fatigue happens in the workplace, and one of the culprits is excessive sitting or standing. This helps prevent that.

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    Adjustable Stools

    Depending on your workstation, you can invest in adjustable stools.

    Stools generally have footrests, although their placement is not ideal. Using stools will position your lower body parts (from the knees down) towards the back rather than in an optimal forward position.

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    Leg Exercises for Elevation and Circulation

    Taking a break from sitting should be part of your healthy habits at work. These habits include incorporating leg exercises, walking and stretches into your shift.

    With leg exercises, you can help keep the blood flowing into your deep veins, increase blood flow, prevent foot swelling and blood pools, and even exercise your core muscles, toes, knees, feet, and other lower extremities.

    You can include seated leg raises, foot flexes and circles, and calf stretches to do this. Learn more about how these leg exercises work as we explain each in this section.

    Seated Leg Raises

    Leg raises are one of the exercises we are fond of doing because it's easy to perform. You just have to follow these simple steps:

    • First, sit upright on your desk chair.
    • Second, bend one knee and extend the other.
    • After, flex the foot on your extended leg.
    • Then, raise the extended part until it's one foot above the ground.
    • Next, gently lower the extended and raised part.
    • Lastly, do it again on the other leg.

    Foot Flexes and Circles

    If a leg raise seems effortless, foot flexes and circles will shock you as they redefine what"easy" and "straightforward" look like. You need only perform these steps:

    • First, sit upright with your feet flat on the floor.
    • Second, place one foot forward and lift it a bit
    • Third, in an alternating fashion, flex and relax your foot on one leg
    • Fourth, repeat the steps with your opposite foot
    • Repeat

    After ten repetitions on each foot, proceed with circles by following the first two steps of the flex exercise. Then, rotate each foot ten times clockwise and ten times counterclockwise.

    Calf Stretches

    We also observed that stretching the calves made a difference when sitting at a desk for most of our eight-hour shifts.

    You can insert some calf stretches into your daily work routine. All you need to do is sit, keep one leg bent while extending the other, and lean your chest forward until you can reach your toes on the extended leg.

    You must hold this stretch for 25 seconds on three repetitions. Then, proceed with the other leg by mirroring all the steps.

    Best Practices for Elevating Your Legs

    Best practices for elevating your legs while working

    At the end of the day, it's better to observe the best practices listed above to receive the benefits of elevating your legs.

    The good thing is we compiled the necessary practices that you MUST follow, including:

    • Invest in footrests appropriate to your sitting height and the length of your lower extremities. It should not be too high or too low, as it may trigger swelling, ankle injury, and pain.
    • Incorporate foot movements when you constantly work long hours to help ensure proper blood circulation.
    • Observe the correct positioning when elevating, similar to what we listed in the previous sections.
    • Try reclining chairs with a built-in footrest to relieve the pressure and weight from your legs, knees, toes, and ankle.
    • You can use compression stockings to ease the pressure causing pain in your knees, legs, feet, and toes. Compression stockings can also help you prevent blood clot, irregular warmness of the skin, varicose veins, and other associated symptoms.

    Timeframes and Frequency

    The optimal duration of elevating your leg part is five to eight minutes. You should squeeze this period in every 30 to 45 minutes of sitting.

    Aside from this, you must also include walking, standing, and other movements to further boost circulation, stop the formation of a blood clot that hinders blood flowing throughout the body, help strengthen core muscles, and other health perks.

    Proper Posture and Body Alignment

    Aside from observing all the above requisites, checking your posture and alignment is equally important.

    The proper posture when positioned at your sitting desk is seen in the following characteristics:

    • You're sitting with your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, with your shoulders relaxed and your core muscles engaged.
    • A rolled towel or lumbar support reinforces your back without causing you to slouch.
    • Your knees are on the same level as your hips.
    • Your ankle is positioned a bit more forward than your knee.
    • Your computer monitor is at eye level. You can also use a monitor riser to achieve this position.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    We are nearing the end of this guide, but first, we'll answer some of your FAQs in this section.

    How Often Should I Elevate My Legs While Sitting at a Desk?

    You should do it at least twice every 30 minutes you spend sitting at a desk.

    Integrate this practice into your daily routine and work life to boost circulation, allowing blood to flow throughout your body and not pool in the lower parts.

    What Are the Benefits of Using a Footrest?

    Here are some of the benefits:

    • Boost circulation of the circulatory system
    • Lesser pressure on veins because of the good circulation
    • Prevent swelling of the lower parts (e.g., ankle and knee)
    • Lessen the formation of varicose veins.
    • Relieve tension on the toes and soles.

    Can I Elevate My Legs While Using a Standing Desk?

    Yes, you can elevate the legs while using a standing desk by integrating footrests into your workstations.

    Are There Any Risks Associated With Elevating My Legs Too Much?

    Yes, there are risks associated with excessive elevation exercise, such as:

    • Spine deformation or scoliosis
    • Joint injury due to too much bending
    • The improper duration may affect the back and neck.

    You must consult your doctor and follow his advice to avoid these risks. If symptoms are already manifesting, have it checked by your doctor immediately.

    What Are Some Simple Leg Exercises I Can Do While Sitting at a Desk?

    The simple exercises you can do while you sit are seated leg raises, feet flexes and circles, and calf stretching.

    All these exercises can help you achieve better circulation and stronger muscles.

    Conclusion

    Elevating the legs while sitting at a desk provides health benefits, especially in terms of blood circulation, muscles, and overall health.

    However, to fully get the health advantages, you must observe the abovementioned methods, including regular exercise, incorporating breaks, using compression stockings, and following the correct posture.

    This guide includes all you need to achieve better overall health with leg elevation exercises. So, don't waste time and combine all these tips and tricks to improve your work life!
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