Support your body while sitting all day
Humans used to spend most of their time standing. Walking across the plains in search of food certainly kept our ancestors on their feet. Modern people, however, have the luxury of grocery stores and desk jobs, which means that for many office workers, the majority of their lives are spent in a seated position. Unfortunately, cushy chairs and computers, which seem to draw faces ever closer, have lead many to assume a hunched posture. Sitting this way can lead to a plethora of health issues, from neck pain to a stiff back.
Desks and computers aren’t all physical degeneration: The way you sit can support your health instead of hurt it. Whether or not you work in an office, you can use these tips for improving your posture to support your spine and prevent pain:
When you spend eight hours of your day in a chair, switching your position often is tempting. From leaning far forward to rest your arms on the desk to leaning back and typing from afar, most people take to extremes throughout the day. However, both postures can pinch nerves in your back, which leads to discomfort and may cause back problems over time.
Ideally, your body should be somewhere in the middle: upright, but not pin straight. Most office chairs are designed to support people who are sitting in this position, which is why they have curves in certain areas. By keeping your core perpendicular to the floor (or near enough to it), you’ll engage your chair’s supportive features.
Knees should be 90 degrees
Anyone who regularly exercises knows their knees should never extend beyond their feet when doing things like squats or warrior poses. Keeping a 90-degree angle in your knees prevents them from taking on too much pressure and still supports the rest of your body.
Take that information with you when you sit. Keep your feet planted on the ground and your knees at 90-degree angles. This posture removes pressure from your low back without hurting your knees.
Though it may be tempting, avoid crossing your legs or ankles, as it can put your hips and spine at odd angles that may cause pain or stiffness over time. If you must cross anything, pick your ankles, as it’s less jarring to your posture than crossing your legs.
Some people even keep platforms under their desks where they can rest their feet. This may help you feel the comfort you do when crossing your legs without messing up your posture.
More 90 degrees
In addition to your knees, keep your elbows at 90-degree angles. You can rest your forearms on your desk to achieve this position – to do that, make sure your chair is at the right height. Your elbows don’t have to be a perfect 90 degrees – you just want to make sure you don’t tighten your shoulders and that you’re close enough that you don’t have to slouch. Sometimes, the angle will be more obtuse.
Think ‘don’t slouch,’ not ‘sit straight’
Correcting your posture can be a little tricky, as our spines aren’t perfectly straight and shouldn’t be. Many times, when people try to correct their posture, they overcompensate, leaning too far back. When you tell yourself “sit straight,” you may end up bending your spine too much in the other direction. Instead, tell yourself “don’t slouch.” This command stops you from rolling your spine forward and helps you ease into a more natural position.
Slouching doesn’t just include leaning – it also means letting your shoulders round forward. This can cause neck and shoulder pain, so correcting it is important. Whether you’re seated or standing, imagine putting your shoulder blades in your back pockets. Lift your shoulders up, roll them back and then let them relax. This naturally pushes your chest forward and prevents your neck from bending too much.
Don’t force this posture, just use the image we provided to gently nudge your body into the correct posture.
Make use of ergonomic chairs and active desks
“Prolonged sitting can increase risk of heart disease by 64%.”
Many companies are supporting the health of their staff by offering ergonomic office chairs and active desks. After all, according to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, men who sit six or more hours a day experience a heart disease risk that’s 64 percent greater than those who don’t sit as much.
For this reason, many companies now offer chairs that support correct posture (once you assume it) and standing or standing/sitting desks. These tools help you stay active and support your spine all day. Ask your company for such features if you don’t have them already.