Once upon a time, humans spent most of their day performing low-intensity physical activity in order to survive. Today a growing proportion of the working and studying population spend most of their day sitting at a desk. Statistics show sedentary workers spend an average of 9.3 hours sitting per day and latest research is suggesting that sitting can be massively detrimental to our posture and overall health.
How Can You Minimise Posture Damage when Sitting at a Desk?
By correctly setting up your workstation you can significantly decrease the damage to your body from sitting. The two key points to achieve this are:
Maintain good posture
Keep the muscles as active as possible
1. Maintain Good Posture at your Desk
The brain and body work best when the spine is in ideal alignment. When we spend extended periods of time sitting in poor alignment, we can develop aches and pains in our body.
Ideal alignment is when:
- You are sitting balanced on your bottom, and when looking from the side you have a curve in your low back (no slouching).
- Your shoulders and neck are balanced when looking from the front, and your ear is in line with your shoulder when looking from the side.
Below is a diagram to show you the details of how to achieve ideal alignment whilst sitting.
- An extra tip to keep your neck balanced is using a portable headset for phone usage.
2. Keep Your Muscles as Active as Possible at Your Desk
The body is not designed to be stationary for long periods, adapt some of these strategies to keep the body as active as possible during your work day:
1. Sit on a posture cushion
The gently inflated posture cushion sits directly onto the chair seat, providing an unstable sitting surface. The body needs to make dynamic, small continuous movements to correct your balance. This keeps your gluteal muscles active as well as builds on your core strength.
2. Use a sit-to-stand capable desk
Ideally you should spend three times more standing than sitting. Currently there are many great options for desks that have the capability to move from sitting to standing to allow you to achieve this.
3. Use a foot rest
Both feet should touch the ground to keep the knees aligned over the ankles, if not use a foot rest. This also creates an unsteady surface for the feet, keeping more muscles active.
4. Take Posture Breaks
Take a posture break every 30 to 60 minutes. To perform, hold on to the back of your chair with both of your hands (or extend arms to side), open your chest and extend your head backwards. Hold for 10-20 seconds. This activates the extensor muscles in your spine that do not get utilised with long periods of sitting. It also helps reset you back to ideal alignment.
Another great option is to do three backward shoulder rolls every 30-60 minutes.
The bottom line is that our bodies are not designed to sit and the research is indicating that the long term cost to your health, well-being and productivity can be enormous. Your job is to take these suggestions to your workplace, then get creative to apply them in as many different ways and as often as possible. Remember better health is all about progress not perfection.