Bad Posture at the Desk Can Lead to
High Blood Pressure and Other Risks


If you spend long hours sitting at a desk each day, listen up — or, more precisely, straighten up. Bad posture at your desk, what has also been called “Sittosis”, has been found to raise your blood pressure.

neck muscle posture

The muscles in your neck are linked directly to a brain region that regulates your heart rate and blood pressure.

The discovery was made by researchers at the University of Leeds, UK, who found that muscles in your neck have a direct connection to your nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) — a part of the brainstem that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

“The pathway exists for bad posture to really have an effect,” said researcher Ian Edwards.

Of course, high blood pressure is only one of the unsavory side effects of a day-long slouch marathon. Sitting improperly at your desk can lead to:

  • Increased risk of neck and back problems
  • Abnormal wear and tear on your joints, which can lead to arthritis
  • Improperly aligned bones and joints, which can lead to fatigue
  • Your spine becoming fixed in an abnormal position, which can lead to constricted blood vessels and nerves and problems with muscles, discs, and joints. In turn, this can cause headaches, fatigue, organ trouble and breathing problems.
  • Increased strains and pains
  • More stress on the ligaments that hold your spine’s joints together
proper sitting posture

Proper sitting posture means keeping both feet flat on the floor, aligning your back with the back of your chair and keeping your shoulders straight.

What is Proper Sitting Posture?

We all know that you need to stand up straight and keep your shoulders back to have good posture, but what does “good sitting posture” look like? Use these tips to find out:

  • Keep both feet flat on the floor (if your feet cannot reach the floor, adjust the chair or use a footrest)
  • Align your back with the back of the chair
  • Don’t slouch or lean forward
  • Adjust the chair so your knees are even with your hips, or slightly higher, and your arms are at a 75-90 degree angle at the elbows
  • Keep your shoulders straight

Stretch Your Way Toward a Healthier Life

Your body can only tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before it starts to feel uncomfortable. So while you’re sitting at your desk, about every 15 minutes, stand stretch, walk around or change your position for at least 30 seconds.

If you’re having trouble getting into a good postured sitting position that feels right, here’s a trick: get an exercise ball and try using it instead of your regular chair. In order to keep your balance on the ball, you will have to sit up straight with both feet on the floor, which will give you an idea of what good sitting posture should feel like.

Finally, you can reduce the strain that comes from sitting all day (an unnatural position for the human body when done in long periods) by stretching. Check out these nine simple stretches to do right at your desk.

The Top Nine Desk Stretches

Next time you’re at your desk, give these soothing, relaxing stretches from the Mayo Clinic a try:

  1. Finger Stretch
    Straighten your fingers and spread them apart until you feel a stretch and hold for 10 seconds. Next, bend your fingers at the middle knuckle and hold for another 10 seconds.
  2. Arm Stretch
    Reach both arms out straight in front of you and lace your fingers together. Turn your palms outward, away from your body, and stretch for 10 or 20 seconds.
  3. Back Stretch
    Raise one bent elbow over your head so your hand is touching your back. With your other hand, gently hold your bent elbow and pull it toward the back of your head. Repeat with the other elbow.
  4. Neck Stretch
    Tilt your head to the right and push your ear toward your shoulder. Repeat by tilting your head to the left.
  5. Chest Stretch
    Place both hands behind your neck and lace your fingers together. Pull your elbows back so that your shoulder blades squeeze together.
  6. Back and Neck Stretch
    Look over your right shoulder and hold until you feel a stretch. Repeat on the opposite side by looking over your left shoulder.
  7. Shoulder and Neck Stretch
    Tilt your chin down so it is nearly touching your chest. This will stretch your neck and shoulder muscles.
  8. Shoulder and Back Stretch
    Shrug your shoulders upward and hold for several seconds. Then roll your shoulders back and downward, holding for another several seconds.
  9. Lower Back Stretch
    Cross your right leg over your left. Put your left hand on top of your knee and gently twist to the right, looking over your right shoulder. Hold for 10 or 15 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite side.

And remember that you can reduce muscle tension, increase your flexibility and improve your posture overall by making stretching a regular part of your day.

The great thing about stretching is that once you incorporate it into your routine, it will make sitting at your desk much easier on your body.


The Journal of Neuroscience, 27(31):8324-8333

New Scientist