The average person spends approximately seven hours a day sitting; that can go up to more than nine if you work in an office. Just think: sitting for nine hours is the equivalent of flying to the UK every day. Whether you are at your desk or in front of a computer, it is important to check your posture. Poor posture can lead to aches and pains and even fatigue. So, what can we do to help ourselves?
There are some simple strategies you can adopt with little expense to yourself. Let’s use the typical example of somebody sitting at a desk all day. The first thing to check is your chair. Does it provide adequate back support? Are your knees and hips positioned comfortably at 90 degrees? Are your feet firmly on the floor? If you answered yes to all of these questions then you are off to a good start. But if you answered no to even one of those questions then you are putting yourself at risk. So what are the solutions?
Back support: If your chair does not provide good support for your back, you can use a cushion or a rolled-up towel to improve it.
Hips and knees: If your chair is adjustable, move it up or down so that you can sit comfortably with your hips and knees at 90 degrees. However, this may not be possible depending on the height of your desk. If you find that your desk doesn’t allow you to sit in this position with your feet supported flat then you can use a box (or phone book) to rest your feet on.
Feet on the floor: We all like to cross our legs or contort our legs into various positions. However, this places stress on our knee and hip joints, as well as affecting our circulation. The lack of support from our feet being firmly on the floor can also affect our backs and encourage even more slouching.
So now we are sitting comfortably in our chairs, let’s look at your work station. Before we even talk about our computers, let’s look at where everything is positioned. I bet, if you look closely at all the objects you use regularly, they are positioned on your dominant side (the hand you write with). Your telephone, your mouse and even your pen holder. This makes us neglect our weaker side, causing more muscle activity on one side. Try moving the phone over to the other side of the desk. You could even try using the mouse with your less dominant hand. Now we can finally look at our computer. There are several important rules when it comes to the position of your computer, whether on your desk at work, your kitchen table or your lap. In order to minimize the strain on our bodies, we need to follow some very simple rules.
Monitor: The top of the screen should be level with your eyes, allowing you to focus on the screen without having to look up or down, which puts a stretch on our neck muscles. Hold your finger backwards for 20 seconds. Aches, doesn’t it? This is what happens to your neck if you hold it out of its neutral position for extended periods. The monitor should also be at arm’s length away from your body, reducing the strain on your eyes
Keyboard: This should be placed directly in front of you, to avoid excessive side movements of the wrist, and at a level that allows you to sit with your forearms parallel to the ground, your elbows resting comfortably by your sides. If it isn’t possible to lower or raise your chair, consider using a pad to raise your keyboard, or a cushion on your seat.
Mouse: Quite often there is not enough space on our desks for our mouse to sit to the side of the keyboard. If using the mouse for extended periods, ensure that you position it close to the keyboard or consider using a mouse platform. A mouse platform sits over the numeric key pad, which is very rarely used.
The above is great if we live in an ideal world but not many of us do, and this is particularly so if using a laptop. Laptops have an inflexible design and were not actually designed for extended periods of use. The next simple solution is to take regular breaks, take a walk, stretch, do some exercises.
• Triceps dips: Facing away from the desk, place your hands on the edge of the desk, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and then straighten. Repeat 10-15 times.
• Seated side bends: Raise your arms above your head and slowly stretch to the side, hold for three seconds. Repeat to the other side, 10-15 times
• Desk push-ups: Facing your desk, place your hands flat on the desk, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and let your chest touch the desk and then straighten the elbows. Repeat 10-15 times
• Wrist stretch: Standing up, face your desk and rest the back of the hands flat on it. Try to hold at a 90 degree angle for 15 seconds. Repeat regularly throughout the day.
• Straight leg raise: Sitting in your chair, stretch your leg out straight in front of you and raise just slightly off the chair (keeping the knee straight). Hold for three seconds. Repeat 10-15 times, both legs.
• Chair squats: Standing in front of your desk, squat until you are almost sitting in the chair, but not quite touching. Hold for three seconds. Repeat 10-15 times
• Seated rotation stretch: Gently turn to look behind you. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat left and right, regularly throughout the day.
• Upper chest stretch: Place your arms behind your head, take a deep breath and move your elbows backwards and lift your chest. Gently lower your arms and stretch them backwards. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat regularly throughout the day.