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Weak Leg Muscles From Sitting at a Desk Too Long

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Weak Leg Muscles From Sitting at a Desk Too Long
A businesswoman sitting at a desk working on a laptop. Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

While you rely on your desk job to pay your bills, consider what sitting all day with no stretch breaks can do to your body. Long periods of muscle disuse can cause leg muscles to weaken and also tighten, which can lead to back pain. You can reverse the effects of muscle weakness through frequent stretch and exercise breaks throughout the course of your day.

Muscle Disuse

Your muscles must be used in order for them to maintain strength and flexibility. Spending long hours at your desk without using your leg muscles can cause muscle fibers to break down. This occurrence is known as muscle atrophy and can make your leg muscles weak over time. Additionally, the added pressure to the muscles on the back of your thighs, known as the hamstrings, can affect blood circulation, leading to muscle breakdown. You also may notice that your hamstrings feel tight after a long day of sitting at your desk; this can cause them to pull on your lower back and create back pain.

Iliopsoas Muscles

Your iliopsoas muscles are those that connect from your thighbone to your spine. When you sit at your desk for long periods of time, the iliopsoas muscles are in a constant, flexed position. In this position, the muscles are shorter, which can pull on your spine more when you are standing, contributing to back pain and difficulty straightening your leg muscles after long periods of sitting. For this reason, it’s important to take stand-and-stretch breaks throughout your day to keep the iliopsoas muscles from staying in a constant flexed position.


Since you can’t change the fact that you work at a desk, ensure your chair and computer are at the best position to minimize leg muscle pain. Your feet should sit flat on the floor and your back should be able to touch the back of your chair so the chair cushions your back. The seat of your chair should not dig into the backs of your legs, which can affect leg muscle circulation. If your chair does this, you may wish to ask your office manager or human resources professional if you can switch to a more ergonomically friendly chair.

Taking Stretch Breaks

Becoming absorbed in your work can make it difficult for you to take regular stretch breaks throughout the course of your workday. You can set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to get up and stretch every hour you are at work. Some stretches include standing up and placing your hands on your lower back, leaning backward and arching your back. You also can circle your shoulders and pull one knee toward your chest at a time to stretch your legs and lower back. Walking up and down a few flights of stairs also can activate your leg muscles.

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