How to practise good posture and reduce the harmful effects of sitting down all day Do you spend most of your working day in a seated position? Most people who work in an office invariably do. When you include your activities (or lack of them!) before and after work, the average office workers spends a staggering 10 hours a day sitting down. Let that sink in. The problem is that sitting for that amount of time on a regular basis is bad for our health . A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain and muscle wasting, and there are serious long term health consequences that include diabetes, cancer and heart disease. More immediately, sitting puts more stress on your spine and the discs between your vertebrae, and the muscles and ligaments around the lumbar region. Neck, shoulder and back pain are often the first sign that something’s going wrong. Add to that the bad posture habits that are all too easy to acquire and health and mobility problems may well be the result in the longer term. So, what can you do about it? Assuming that not sitting down at work is not an option (unless your employers is prepared to invest in a standing desk for you), the answer is education. Maintaining a good posture while you’re sitting at your desk is key, so you need to teach yourself how to sit properly in order to minimise any damage to your back, then put your techniques into action every single day. 1. Insist on getting the right chair for your needs The chair you sit on all day is the most important piece of office equipment as far as your back is concerned. It’s worth talking to your manager about investing in a proper office chair designed for all-day sitting. Confusingly, there’s a wide range of different office chairs on the market and they can vary hugely in terms of price and quality. Be warned that not all chairs are the same. Choose a good quality ergonomic office chair that is well designed and comfortable to sit on (like these ones from Corrigo Design), which offers good lumbar support and is height adjustable. A good office furniture supplier may let you try out a chair for a few days to see if it suits. 2. Learn how to sit properly in your chair When it comes to setting up your chair, spend a bit of time adjusting the height, back and tilt position for maximum comfort and support. Sit down on the chair, with a straight upper back, and press your hips against the back of the chair. You should feel the chair’s lumbar support cushioning the natural curvature of your lower back. Next, check that your knees are slightly lower than your hips and that your fleet are flat on the floor. Adjust the chair height if necessary to get into the correct position. If your feet won’t rest flat on the floor because you’re too short, get a footrest to support your legs. If you’re too tall, it is possible that you may need a higher chair, and probably a higher desk to go with it. A word of advice: don’t cross your legs while you’re sitting at your desk. This is what’s known by the experts as an ‘awkward ergonomic posture’ which, over time, can lead to discomfort, injury and long-term posture problems. 3. Make sure your arms are positioned correctly Sit down in your chair as instructed above and move your chair towards your desk until you can reach your keyboard and mouse easily. Watch your body position carefully – you shouldn’t have to reach forward and away from the back of the chair to reach the keyboard because this can lead to tension build-up in your back muscles over time. The keyboard should be positioned about 4-6 inches away from the edge of the desk, allowing you to rest your wrists on the table or on a wrist pad, and with your mouse nearby. Next, check that your wrists and arms are parallel to the floor, not tilting up or down. This is where it’s important that your office chair has an adjustable armrest. Use it to make sure that your arms are lifted slightly at the shoulders, which will alleviate some of the strain from your upper back and also prevent you from slouching. 4. Check your computer screen is at the right height Finally, take a look at the position of your computer screen. It should be approximately at an arm’s distance on the desk straight in front of you and positioned so that you look straight at the top edge of the screen. If it is too low, you will slowly but surely strain your neck muscles which will result in neck pain after a few hours’ work. If your computer monitor is not height adjustable (and many older ones aren’t), add a mount, stand or shelf underneath until you have achieved the optimum height. Laptops can be a particular issue because the screen and keyboard are fixed close together. If you regularly work on a laptop on your desk, take advice on how to achieve the best ergonomic laptop set up in the office. 5. Get up regularly and take a break from sitting Finally, even if you have the most comfortable office chair in the world and learnt the best ergonomic sitting position, it is essential that you get up and move around every now and again. Make a point of taking a break from sitting at the desk every 30-60 minutes to give your muscles a chance to relax. Shifting position in your chair is not sufficient! The best thing you can do is to get up from your chair at regular intervals and simply walk around. Whether you go and put the kettle on, take a comfort break or simply go for a short walk once every hour or so, it’s important to include as many non-sitting activities in your day as you can. Why not educate others in your company to do the same? From encouraging lunch breaks to be taken away from the desk, to introducing standing or walking meetings, there are many ways in which we can reduce the amount of time we sit down during the working day. About the Author: Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and English Literature graduate. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her blog posts and has written for various online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes cooking healthy new recipes and relaxing with a good book'. Twitter: Annie Button