Good Sitting Posture

good sitting posture

Written by Idara Akan - 21/08/2016

Sitting At A Computer With The Correct Posture

sitting posture

Sitting at a computer for long periods of time can take a toll on your body. By not sitting with the correct posture, it is easy to end up with back pain, neck pain, knee pains, and a tingling of the hands and fingers.

 

Sitting has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer . Not to mention, sitting for long periods of time can cause your muscles to become inactive, and have you burning one calorie a minute, a third of what it would be if you were walking . And that’s even when you have good posture!

 

But most of us don’t even have good posture. We’re sitting like contortionists and twisted pretzels, setting ourselves up for a lifetime of pain and injuries . And although standing desks (or even treadmilll desks) are trendy, they haven't become the office norm just yet—making sitting the majority of the day pretty inevitable.

 

To understand the best way to set up a computer workstation, it is helpful to understand the concept of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system and reduces your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).

 

To avoid the scary consequences of days spent on our rears, if your work involves sitting a lot and using a computer, here are some tips to help you sit correctly.

 

Good Sitting Postures To Consider

The following are important considerations when attempting to maintain neutral body postures while working at the computer workstation:

  • Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.

 

These four reference postures are examples of body posture changes that all provide neutral positioning for the body.

Position 1:

upright sitting

Position 2:

standing posture

Position 3:

declined sitting

Position 4:

reclined posture

 

Correct Sitting Postures At A Computer

1.           Position Your Screen Properly

position your screenYour screen should be directly in front of you. A good guide is to place the monitor about an arm's length away, with the top of the screen roughly at eye level so that your neck is in a neutral, relaxed position. To achieve this, you may need a monitor stand. If the screen is too high or too low, you'll have to bend your neck, which can be uncomfortable.

Center the screen directly in front of you, above your keyboard.

Position the top of the monitor approximately 2-3” above your seated eye level.

2.           Avoid Screen Reflection

Your screen should be as glare-free as possible. If there's glare on your screen, hold a mirror in front of the screen so you know what's causing it.

Reduce any glare by carefully positioning the screen, which you should be looking almost straight at, but partially looking down.

Position the monitor to avoid reflection from overhead lighting and sunlight. If necessary, pull curtains or blinds across the windows.

Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls (the screen's brightness or contrast) to minimize glare from overhead lights.

3.            Working with Spectacles

People with bifocal spectacles may find them less than ideal for computer work. It's important to be able to see the screen easily without having to raise or lower your head.

If you can't work comfortably with bifocals, you may need a different type of spectacles. Consult your optician if in doubt.

4.           Adjust your Chair

adjust your chairAdjust your chair height so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. This can help prevent repetitive strain injuries.

Your elbows should be by the side of your body so the arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint. Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed, or remove them completely if you find that they are in your way.

Sit up tall. Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.

Adjust the seat height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips.

Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure that your upper and lower back are supported. If necessary, use inflatable cushions or small pillows. When your chair has an active back mechanism use it to make frequent position changes.

5.           Using the Keyboard

using the keyboardPlace your keyboard in front of you when typing. Position it so that it is directly in front of your body.

Leave a gap of about four to six inches (100mm - 150mm) at the front of the desk to rest your wrists between bouts of typing.

Make sure that the keys are centered with your body.

Keep your arms bent in an L-shape and your elbows by your sides.

Some people like to use a wrist rest to keep their wrists straight and at the same level as the keys.

Adjust the keyboard height. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position, and your wrists and hands are straight.

Adjust the tilt of your keyboard based on your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism or keyboard feet, to adjust the tilt. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you, but if you are slightly reclined, then a slight forward tilt will help to maintain a straight wrist position.

An articulating keyboard tray can provide optimal positioning of input devices. However, it should accommodate the mouse, enable leg clearance, and have an adjustable height and tilt mechanism. The tray should not push you too far away from other work materials, such as your telephone.

If you do not have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, you may need to adjust your workstation height and the height of your chair, or use a seat cushion to get in a comfortable position. Remember to use a footrest if your feet dangle.

6.           Keep your mouse close

Position and use the mouse as close to you as possible. A mouse mat with a wrist pad may help keep your wrist straight and avoid awkward bending.

If you're not using your keyboard, push it to one side to move the mouse closer to you.

7.           Support your Back

support your backYou want your back to be comfortable and supported, with a small curve in the lumbar spine where your natural lower back (or lordotic curve) is. Without support, the back tends to get too much of a curve in the opposite direction—what’s known as kyphosis, or more commonly, hunchback—leaving the lower back perfectly exposed to disc herniation and chronic postural lower back sprains and strains.

If you don’t have a chair that can provide support, get creative! Pillows and jackets are the perfect solution to such a problem. You can reduce your risk of back pain by adjusting your chair so your lower back is properly supported.

A correctly adjusted chair will reduce the strain on your back. Get one that is easily adjustable so you can change the height, back position and tilt.

Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips.

8.           Rest your feet on the floor

Place your feet flat on the floor. If they're not, ask if you can have a footrest, which lets you rest your feet at a level that's comfortable.

Don't cross your legs, as this may contribute to posture-related problems.

9.           Make objects accessible

Position frequently used objects, such as your telephone or stapler, within easy reach. Avoid repeatedly stretching or twisting to reach things.

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, try exchanging your handset for a headset. Repeatedly cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder can strain the muscles in your neck.

10.           Take regular breaks

stretch your neckDon't sit in the same position for long periods. Make sure you change your posture as often as is practicable.

Frequent short breaks are better for your back than fewer long ones. It gives the muscles a chance to relax while others take the strain. Studies have shown that constant sitting is very damaging to your health.

Try walking around for a couple minutes, standing and doing stretches—anything to break up a full day of sitting on your bottom is good for you!

  • Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance. Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds. Use correct posture when working. Keep moving as much as possible.
  • Exercise your hand by pushing on top of your fingers, and using backward resistance movements. Do a minimum of relieve your handsfifteen reps for each hand at least six times every day. This simple exercise will prevent you from developing carpal tunnel finger problems in the future.

 

Even if you don’t have any problems right now, you may prevent pain later in life by doing a few good exercises.

 

Over time, poor posture may be caused by habits from everyday activities such as sitting in office chairs, staring at the computer, cradling a cell phone, carrying a purse over same shoulder, driving, prolonged standing, caring for small children, or even sleeping.

 

Poor posture can easily become second nature, causing and aggravating episodes of back and neck pain and damaging spinal structures. Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within one's ability to control and are not difficult to change.

The Takeaway

Little changes to your posture matter. Bad sitting habits—from slouching to crossing your legs—can lead to serious injuries and chronic pain. Fortunately, most of these issues are preventable, and regardless of if you’re big or small, there’s a creative way to make your desk setup and posture a bit better.

 

It won’t feel awesome at first—we know the ideal posture is rarely the most comfortable—but that doesn’t mean you should give in to your long-standing (or, sitting) habits. Try slowly incorporating these changes (i.e. five minutes every half hour at first) to get your body adjusted to a healthier posture, and over time, sitting properly won’t feel awkward at all.

 

Your body will thank you!

 

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Sources:

  1. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. (2016) Good Working Positions. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html Date accessed: 20/08/2016
  2. Wikihow.com. (2016) How To Sit At A Computer. http://www.wikihow.com/Sit-at-a-Computer Date accessed: 20/08/2016.
  3. Dohrmann Consulting. (2016) How To Sit At A Computer. http://www.ergonomics.com.au/how-to-sit-at-a-computer/ Date accessed: 20/08/2016.
  4. NHS. (2016) How To Sit Correctly. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/howtositcorrectly.aspx Date accessed: 20/08/2016.
  5. Kelly Andrews, DC. (2016) Ten Tips For Improving Posture and Ergonomics. http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/ten-tips-improving-posture-and-ergonomics Date accessed: 20/08/2016.
  6. Hannah Newman. (2015) Here’s How You Should Be Sitting at Your Desk (According to Ergonomics) http://greatist.com/grow/ergonomic-tips-sitting Date accessed: 20/08/2016.