Updated: April 5th, 2021
Most of us spend 8 – 9 hours a day sitting in front of the computer or work, plus a few more when we get home. We are unaware of just how poor posture is negatively affecting our health.
According to Better Health Australia, the negative impact of poor sitting posture at your desk include:
- Rounded shoulders
- Muscle fatigue
- Back, neck, and bodily pains
Overtime these ailments can develop into something much more serious, such as a permanent change in your spinal cord, and increased chances of cardiovascular Issues . Yes poor sitting posture doesn’t just lead to temporary strain or discomfort, but long lasting negative effects.
Sitting isn’t complicated, but the correct sitting posture requires the proper guidance first, followed up by conscious effort to maintain it.
The Proper Sitting Posture According to Experts
- Sit with a back straight (no hunching), your shoulders pulled back and buttock touching the end of the seat.
- Keep your neck and head in an upright angle with your ears aligned with your shoulders. According to studies, tilting the head forward just 15 degrees (so called “text neck”) doubles the amount of pressure on your neck as the weight of your head doubles.
- Avoid leaning on any side. Keep hips even to distribute weight of body.
- Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle, and keep your knees even with or slightly lower than hips.
- Leave a 2-3 inch small gap between the bottom of your thighs and the edge of the seat. This helps reduce pressure build up in the underside of your thighs.
- Keep both feet flat on the floor, or rest them on a footrest if you can’t reach it.
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed, which restricts blood flow.
- Avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
The above posture applies to sitting in general, whether it’s an office chair, wooden chair or kitchen stool.
Good Sitting Posture at a Computer
If you are sitting in front of a computer, there are other things to take into consideration, such as the optimal distance between your eyes and the monitor, your arms positions, and more. According to the same sources, observe the following:
Neck and Monitor Positions:
- Position your monitor so the first line of text on the screen is eye level.
- Neck should be neutral, with monitor directly ahead to prevent having to turn your neck.
- Monitor should be placed at arms length distance, or 20 to 30 inches away.
- When talking on the phone, use a headset or speaker phone functionality. Never hold the phone between your ears and shoulders, which can lead to muscle strains.
Body and Chair Positions:
- Maximize contact of your back against the backrest of the chair. Use a separate lumbar pillow if needed.
- Adjust the back of your office chair so it’s at a 100-110 degrees recline. A reclined angle reduces spinal pressure.
- Shoulders should be relaxed.
Keyboard and Arms Positions
- Adjust height of armrests so your elbows are at a 100-110 degrees open angle.
- Place keyboard at a slight negative tilt if you are sitting upright.
- When typing, hands should be slightly lower than elbows, with fingers pointing downwards/ at the floor.
- Minimize any twisting of your wrists from side to side or up and down.
- Keyboard trays can be helpful in obtaining the precise desired keyboard and mouse angles. Pick one that is large enough to accommodate both.
- Use a keyboard palm rest as needed only when you are not typing. Do not rest your wrists on the rest when typing, which causes your wrist to turn side to side while keying, leading to wrist strain.
- Make use of keyboard shortcuts whenever possible to optimize workload and minimize use of mouse.
Good Sitting Posture for People with Back Pain
If you suffer from back or neck pain, the ideal posture to relieve back tension and pain isn’t the upright 90 degree position. On the contrary, a reclining position is much better to reduce back tension:
According to a ground breaking study that used MRI scans to measure the amount of disc pressure different sitting postures produced, the sitting angle that resulted in the least amount of pressure is 135 degrees backwards.
As you can see in the graphic above, standing also exerts less pressure on the spine compared to most sitting postures.
And finally, squatting is also extremely beneficial for people with back pain. Set aside 15 minutes a day to squat in front of your computer to work to get the benefits:
Like standing, this position much better preserves the curvature of the lumbar spine, which in turn reduces spinal compression. Furthermore, overtime it helps bring back hip mobility, a key ingredient to a healthier back.
Note: See “Best Office Chairs for Back Pain” for our list of recommended chairs if you suffer from back or neck pain.
Other Postural Tips
No matter how good your sitting posture is, there is no denying that sitting for long periods of time is fundamentally hazardous to your health. In fact, the negative impact from prolonged sitting cannot even be offset by exercising .
Here are some other important tips to incorporate into your everyday sitting if you want to live better and longer:
- Get up and take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
- Incorporate standing periodically into your workflow, such as standing for a few minutes after every 30 minutes of standing. 
- Move periodically, such as walking or doing simple ergonomic exercises for a couple of minutes after every 30 minutes. 
- Ensure your room is well lit without causing glare on your screen. Dim lighting fatigues your eyes more quickly. 
- Take eye breaks frequently, by looking at distant objects from time to time. Use a tool like the 20-20-20 app to give your eyes a rest for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
Start Sitting Better Today at the Computer
In today’s era, many of us are literally glued to the computer at all times. As such, it is more important than ever to observe proper sitting posture. Follow the above guidelines from the experts, and slowly train your body to assume the ideal sitting posture whenever you sit.