How to Sit to Increase Circulation

A businessman is sitting in an ergonomic office chair.
Image Credit: Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

People who spend excessive amounts of time sitting are more prone to injury and are at risk for circulation and mobility problems. Sitting for prolonged periods, especially without proper posture, fatigues the muscles and compresses the blood vessels responsible for supplying the muscles with blood. If you must spend a significant amount of time sitting at work or home, change positions frequently and use an ergonomic chair.

Step 1

Purchase a chair with a comfortable seat cushion that allows you to easily adjust the seat tilt and height and the angle and height of the backrest. The seat should be large enough for both legs to fit comfortably side by side without any pressure on the sides of your thighs or on the backs of your knees.


Step 2

Sit with your back in a naturally straight position. Do not force your spine into an unnatural posture as this actually shortens your spine and interferes with circulation. Your spine should not bend toward the front of your body, and there should be no noticeable hollow between your lower back and the chair. Center your head over the top of your spine in a relaxed and slightly forward position. Use the backrest of your chair for support.

Step 3

Place your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest if your legs are too short to reach the ground. Sitting with your feet dangling or tucked underneath your body can impair circulation to your lower legs and feet, leading to swelling and varicose veins. Keep your ankles even with or slightly in front of your knees.


Step 4

Sit on a pillow if your chair is still too low even after you adjust its height. Sitting on a low chair can cause your legs to bend at an unhealthy angle, interfering with blood circulation and causing leg swelling. It also can put unnecessary pressure on your buttocks and internal organs.

Step 5

Walk around for several minutes out of every hour. Walking encourages your heart to pump faster and harder and increases blood flow to your extremities. It will also help minimize blood pooling in your legs. Moving your arms and legs around while sitting is also beneficial to circulation.


Step 6

Use padded armrests if you must hold your arms extended from your body for a significant length of time and need the support. Place the fleshy part of your arms against the armrest and move them around frequently to encourage blood flow.

Step 7

Avoid crossing your legs while sitting as this can reduce blood flow to your legs and feet. Crossing and uncrossing your legs while sitting can redistribute pressure and encourage the pumping of blood through the tissues in your legs.

Things You'll Need

  • Ergonomic, adjustable chair

  • Footrest

  • Pillow


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.