Working on correct posture is incredibly important, as it can protect your back from damage both short term and long term. The risks of poor posture aren’t just limited to your back, either. Bad desk posture can negatively impact the rest of your body, too, causing a sore neck and shoulders, repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, or golfer’s arm.
Perhaps surprisingly, the average person in Britain spends 8.9 hours a day sitting down– but the human body was not made for prolonged sitting. Sedentary behaviour is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, so, as well as correcting your sitting posture, it’s important to ensure that you take proactive steps to combat long-term sitting at work.
As some sitting is unavoidable, especially if you have a desk job, it is both your own responsibility and the responsibility of your employer to ensure that you are sitting comfortably at your desk.
Correct posture sitting at a desk
Workplace ergonomics is the science of tailoring the workplace to suit the worker and making sure that desks, chairs, and computers are set up to enable correct posture is a big part of the practice.
Correct sitting posture can protect you from the strains and pains that might otherwise result from spending all day sitting.
Upper back straight
The upper back should be straight and not permanently tilted to one side or the other, as this could cause stresses in the upper back, shoulder and neck.
The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level or slightly below your eye level. If you can, adjust your monitor so that it’s leaning forwards slightly, and position it so that it is at least one full arm’s length away. If you use a laptop on a day to day basis, you should consider using a monitor stand and a separate keyboard to ensure the monitor is at the correct level.
The arms should be relaxed by your sides, resting on the armrests provided by your chair. Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle, supported by wrist support in order to keep your wrists straight with your fingers relaxed. This will prevent the bending of the hands and the tendons and nerves from the hand to the elbow. Disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome or golfer’s arm can be prevented by protecting your wrists in this way.
Chair with a backrest
The backrest on your chair should support the curve in your lower back, and you should sit with your hips as far back in the chair as possible. Adjust your chair so that it supports your lower back, to reduce strain on the back. The best type of office chairs is adjustable in height, back position, tilt, and armrest.
Lower leg and foot position
Lower legs should be at a 90-degree angle to your thighs, with adequate legroom above. If you cannot rest your feet flat on the ground, consider using a footrest to prop your feet above the ground.
Ways to combat sedentary behaviour at work
We’ve discussed the impact of sitting down on your physical health but being sedentary can also have a negative effect on mental health, as tiredness, loneliness and depression can easily take hold when there is little change in the way you conduct your day.
While making sure that your sitting posture is optimised can be a big help in preventing aches and pains, doing anything you can to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting can only make things better.
These are a good alternative to sitting desks, as they allow people to stand up as they work, which can be beneficial for back and shoulder pain. Standing desks can help people to stay focused, and some will even allow you to use a treadmill or exercise bike while you work.
Take regular breaks from your desk
Regular breaks from your desk such as taking your colleagues’ drinks orders or going to the toilet, even going to the printer or photocopier, are a good opportunity to stretch your legs for five minutes every hour. Some fitness trackers will even remind you when to get up to stretch your legs, but if not, think about setting an alarm.
Use lunch breaks for exercise
Take a break from your desk and get out of the office, sure to use the opportunity for an hour-long break from your work. After you’ve eaten your lunch, take a brisk walk around the neighbourhood, or hit the gym.