Sedentary jobs have a number of adverse effects on your physical health, with poor blood circulation being one. Sitting for long periods means the blood can pool in your legs and feet, reducing the rate of blood flow through the body. Leg swelling can occur from the stagnated blood and pressure on the thighs. A lack of movement also means the blood doesn’t circulate efficiently to the hands and back to the heart.
Symptoms of poor circulation include tingling, numbness, throbbing or stinging in the limbs, as well as pain and muscle cramps.
However, there are a few things you can do to improve circulation in your hands and feet while working in a sedentary job.
#1 Stretch at Your Desk
Poor circulation usually occurs in the body’s extremities, including hands and feet. It’s not always possible to leave your desk to stretch your legs and get the blood moving, so it’s best to have a few stretches in mind that you can do at your desk.
Slowly raise your leg up while keeping your knee straight. Hold for a few seconds before slowly lowering your foot in a controlled motion. Swap and do the same with the other leg.
Extend your right leg forward while keeping your left foot flat on the floor. Sit tall with your head in line with your spine then fold forward reaching for your right toes. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Extend your right arm straight out in front of you with your palm up. Flex your wrist pointing your finger tips toward the floor. Use your left hand to pull back on your right fingers until you feel a stretch up your arm. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other hand. Next, complete the stretch with your palm facing down and flexing the fingers back. Repeat on the other hand.
#2 Stretching Away From Your Desk
If you’re working from home or you enjoy a private office, you could do a few exercises that require you to get out of your chair onto the floor.
The Downward Dog gives a good stretch along your legs and arms. Start by sitting on all fours with your toes on the floor. Push up with the palms of your hands and the balls of your feet. Straighten your legs and put your bottom in the air while keeping your back and legs straight and hold for 30 seconds.
While lying on your back with your feet straight ahead, move your knee up toward your chest then place it back down. Repeat 10 times. Swap to the other leg and repeat 10 times.
#3 Use a Footrest
Lifting your feet up off the floor and onto a footrest can help your circulation. A Japanese study has shown that footrests can reduce leg swelling. In the experiment, participants lay on the floor for 30 minutes then sat on a high stool for 30 minutes to increase the chance of leg swelling before moving to a trial chair with a footrest for 30 minutes. The experiment was held once per day for three days in a row with a different angle on the footrest each day - 0°, 15° and 30°.
A footrest at an angle of 30° was found to reduce leg swelling by 1%. It’s thought that keeping the feet at 30° extends the ankle joint to the point that it enables the muscle activity of the tricep at the back of the leg. Pressure on the back of the thigh also reduces due to the angle of the ankle, knee and lumbar.
#4 Go for Short Walks Throughout the Day
Movement is the best remedy for poor circulation. Whenever you get the opportunity, get out of your seat and move around. Take a walk to your colleague’s desk instead of picking up the phone, walk to the kitchen and leave the office during your lunch break to walk around the block. Getting the blood moving will help stop the afternoon slump and keep your productivity up for the rest of the day.
#5 Wear Compression Stockings
If you wear long pants to work, you can slip on a pair of compression stockings and no one will know. Compression stockings can help improve blood flow and limit leg swelling and pain. They’re ideal for people who have varicose veins, venous insufficiency where valves in the leg veins don’t aid the continuous flow of blood back to the heart and sore, aching legs.
The special elastic fabric is designed to fit tightly over your lower legs and ankles or over the thighs and legs. The stockings come in different materials and designs, so you may need to try a couple to find the pair that are most comfortable for you.
#6 Stay Hydrated
Remember to drink plenty of water while at your desk. When the body is well hydrated, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through the blood vessels to your muscles. Sipping on black and green tea at work are thought to improve circulation due to the antioxidants they contain.
#7 Eat a Blood Circulation Friendly Diet
Studies have shown that there are some foods and beverages that may improve blood flow and circulation. Try to include a few circulation-boosting foods for in your daily diet such as:
See Your Doctor
Poor circulation is often a symptom of a health condition. You’re more likely to suffer from poor circulation if you have diabetes, obesity, heart conditions or arterial problems. If you have concerns about the circulation in your hands and feet, speak to your GP.