The Best Way to Sit (and Stand) up Straight

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By News Team on August 20, 2019

Can you really hurt yourself at the office or workplace? You might be surprised at all the injuries you can get just from poor posture.

Poor posture can cause back, shoulder and jaw pain—and aggravate arthritis.

“Proper posture and body mechanics correctly align your body parts, but poor posture takes the body out of alignment,” said Richard Weiss, M.D., M.B.A., chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Carilion Clinic.

“Our spines have three natural curves. A person with poor posture typically holds their neck too far forward and lets their stomach pull their back forward,” he said.

illustration showing man at desk using both improper and proper posture
Your mother was right--it's important to sit up straight. Specifically, pull your shoulders back, keep your feet flat on the floor, position your knees at or below hip-level and make sure your chair supports your back.

What is good posture when standing? It includes keeping your feet apart at shoulder width, standing straight with your shoulders back and keeping your head level.

It’s just as important to sit correctly to keep your body in alignment. Reclining is okay if you maintain the curve in your low back, but many people overdo it, sitting slumped in their chair.

When you sit, pull your shoulders back, keep your feet flat on the floor, position your knees at or below hip-level and make sure your chair supports your back.

“Even if you do practice correct sitting posture, remember that it’s not good to sit for hours at a time,” said Dr. Weiss. “Get up every half hour to an hour and walk around for a few minutes to get your circulation going.  After all, our bodies were made to move.”

Whatever your work environment, arrange your work space so you can move safely and efficiently. Clean up clutter and spills, and cover cords or cables on walking surfaces.

If you work at a computer, you’ll want to set it up so you can avoid getting tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome or headaches.

Position the top of your monitor an inch below eye level, eliminate screen glare by putting the monitor in an area with low lighting, and keep the monitor an arms-length away from you. Adjust your phone, keyboard and mouse so you do not have to reach for your equipment.

And remember to take breaks. Sitting too much is associated with a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, osteoporosis and depression. So get up regularly to take a walk, take the stairs and get your blood moving.