While sitting all the time is considered generally bad for your health, one of the first things to go is your posture. Sitting all the time decreases core strength, which in turn makes you slouch. That’s terrible for your back, shoulders, and neck, causing pain and generally making you more unhealthy. And as you lose that core strength, the slouching gets even worse. Fortunately, this isn’t irreversible, and there are things you can start doing today to make things better.
Set Your Monitor Height Correctly (and At the Proper Distance)
This may come as a shocker, but having your monitor too low is awful for your posture—yeah, we’re talking to you, full-time laptop users. The top of your monitor should be level with your eyes (when you’re sitting up straight), so you’re always looking forward and never down. With the top of the monitor at eye level, you can keep your head straight and use your eyes to see the rest of the screen.
But if you’re using a laptop, you’re probably always looking down. On a short term basis, this isn’t necessarily doing any damage. But if you’re a full time laptop user, this can be terrible for your posture especially your neck. It can cause constant neck and back pain, headaches, and more.
So if you’re a laptop-all-the-time kind of user, we highly recommend getting an external monitor when using your laptop at a desk.
And on the subject of monitors, the distance between you and your display is also important. Generally, if you sit in your regular typing position, you should be able to stretch your hand out and just touch your monitor without stretching too much. Somewhere around 20-24 inches is pretty good. Further away and you’re not only straining your eyes, you’re more likely to incline your head forward to see well.
Uncross Your Legs
Proper posture suggests that your feet should be planted firmly on the floor—both of them. That means sitting with your legs crossed, while comfortable for some people, is ultimately hurting your posture.
So uncross those legs, plant those feet firmly on the floor (or get a stool for under your desk if you need one), and start to make a difference in your overall posture. It may take some getting used to, and there’s nothing saying you can’t cross your legs occasionally—just remember to keep them uncrossed more often than not.
Roll Your Shoulders Back
When you slouch, your head ultimately moves forward, sort of in front of your body. The thing is, though, that heads are heavy. Even a modest forward inclination puts a lot of stress on the muscles in your neck. Not a big deal for the short term, but when it’s a day-long posture, it can cause problems.
This isn’t the body’s natural position—it’s one that’s “learned” over time. Your head should, in fact, be aligned with your body.
To correct it, there’s a simple trick. Shrug your shoulders straight up toward your ears, roll them back, and then relax them. To put this into perspective, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders. And do this gently. It shouldn’t be feel like you’re straining or cause you any real discomfort. It’s just a way to get your alignment right.
Do Yoga or Pilates
The key to good posture is a strong core. I’m not talking about six-pack abs here, just generally good core strength. To get a strong, reliable core, you don’t have to do sit up or leg lifts—you can get a nice, strong core by doing Yoga or Pilates.
Both focus heavily on flexibility and body control, which not only naturally strengthen your core, but also work on many other key areas of the body. A flexible body is a strong body, and both Yoga and Pilates are great ways to achieve that.
Do Desk Exercises
This may seem like a silly suggestion, but there are exercises you can do at your desk to improve your posture (and general health on a long enough timeline).
WebMD has an excellent article with some great suggestions on things you can do at your desk to improve your health. Otherwise, there’s no shortage of good desk-related exercises out there. Doing some simple exercises a few times a day will not only improve your posture (and possibly your health), but it will help keep you energized, focused, and on-task, so you’ll be more productive. Feels good, man.
If at all possible, you could just eliminate the sitting aspect of computer work altogether by switching to a standing desk. These have become more and more popular over the last few years, with many affordable and practical options available now.
Not only is standing better than sitting, but it makes it so much easier to keep moving. You can easily stretch your legs or step away from the computer for a second to re-align your focus. As an added bonus, standing desks have also been shown to improve productivity.
Just note that if you want to switch to a standing desk, you’ll also want to get a good anti-fatigue mat and keep in mind that you can’t simply switch from sitting to standing all at once. It’ll take the body some time to get acclimated to standing for upwards of eight hours a day, so don’t throw that chair away just yet.
And some people find that switching between sitting and standing works better than doing either exclusively. Whatever works for you.