Sit All Day? 10 Feel-Good Tips

If you work behind a desk all day, you're at an increased risk for lower back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, and various strains to your muscles, joints, and tendons. Try these tips to protect your body and keep your head focused on your work instead of nagging aches and pains.

1. Sit in neutral. Avoiding twists, torques, and turns in the placement of your arms, legs, and neck will keep your body in a neutral, comfortable position that won't strain or stress your system.

2. Keep a level head. Your head should be positioned so that you're gazing straight ahead or very slightly down at a computer monitor. Position the monitor at least 14" away from your eyes and so the center of the screen is at eye level.

3. Prop up your feet. Be sure that you can rest your feet firmly while keeping your thighs parallel to the floor. If your feet can't lie flat on the ground, use a rest or box to support them.

4. Support your back. Attach a lumbar support, cushion, or rolled towel to the base of your chair to give your lower back a secure rest.

5. Uncross your legs.  Crossing your legs can bend your spine and restrict natural blood flow.

6. Extend your arms. Tense, compressed wrists can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Try to keep your arms straight from your elbows and leave your wrists extended. Your forearms should be parallel to your legs.

7. Let the back of your legs breathe. Don't rest the back of your knees against the chair. This can lead to varicose veins.

8. Drop your shoulders. Hunching your upper back or letting your shoulders creep up as you type can cause neck strain and even headaches. Make a conscious effort to sit up and drop your shoulders.

9. Sit on a solid base. Choose a wheeled, five-legged desk chair that will allow you to easily make small movements as you work. Make sure the chair has plenty of adjustment options so you can position it well for your body.

10.  Lean back in your chair. Sitting straight isn't always the best position; leaning your chair back to 135 degrees can help relieve lower back pain. While this position may not be conducive to working on the computer screen, tipping back in your chair every now and then can help undo the spine strain that can build in a more upright position.

Every 20-30 minutes, be sure to take breaks to stand up, walk around, stretch your arms, tilt your head from side to side, or whatever else you need to adjust in your seat and keep your body loose and limber. One of the most important ways to sit better is to make sure you stand up more often.

Dr. Liesa Harte reviewed this article.


Sources: "Tips to Maintain Good Posture." American Chriopractic Association. Web. 2012. "Sitting Straight "Bad for Backs'" BBC News. Web.