Sitting has been described as the new smoking. Perhaps this comparison helps to highlight both the increase in people working behind a computer and the varied health problems which excessive sitting - and especially poor posture - causes.
Sitting might seem like an innocent activity, but it has been shown that excessive sitting can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The sedentary lifestyle of many of our work lives also has an impact on our mental health and could have an impact on our quality of life in old age.
But the good news is that it is very easy to improve your posture while working at a desk. Sometimes small alterations in the way you sit, your equipment or even the height of your chair can have a huge impact and help your body feel better in the short and long term.
Here are some useful tips for improving your desk set-up and posture, helpfully arranged to guide you to focus on the particular areas which are causing you discomfort:
#1 Protect your…back
We don’t often give our backs much thought or much love, but your back is the core of your body - it holds you up and keeps you mobile.
To reduce tension in your back, use an adjustable desk chair so that your lower back is protected. Alter the height, back rest position and tilt of your chair to achieve optimum comfort. Ensure your knees are slightly lower than your hips, using a footrest if your feet don’t quite reach the floor.
Rearrange the equipment on your desk so that you always sit straight on, keeping your back straight and avoiding unnecessary strain.
#2 Protect your…neck
Tweaking the placement of your screen can make a huge difference for your neck and general posture. If your screen is too high or too low this will damage your neck over time and encourage poor posture.
Ensure your screen is directly in front of you, not off to one side. It should be about an arm’s length away and tilted so that the centre of the screen is roughly at eye level.
You might need to try a monitor mount to achieve this. Or even just try placing your screen on a box or pile of books as a temporary fix.
If you spend a lot of time on the phone, swap for a headset so that you are not straining your neck and shoulder as you balance your phone between your ear and shoulder.
#3 Protect your…shoulders
Where possible keep your shoulders in a neutral position - not crouching forwards or lounging backwards.
Move your keyboard so that your elbows rest nicely by the side of your body and form an L-shape at the joint to protect your wrists and shoulders.
Arrange your desk so that objects which you regularly use, like your phone or stationery items, are within easy reach. This will help you avoid repeatedly stretching and twisting in ways which are bad for your back as well as your shoulders.
#4 Protect your…wrists
Adjust the height of your desk chair so that your wrists are not at an awkward angle as your type. Your wrists and forearms should be level with the floor to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
Place your keyboard directly in front of you as you type, or move your keyboard away and place your mouse closer to you if you are not using your keyboard. Use a mouse mat with wrist support to ensure your wrist is straight as you scroll.
If you are typing for a long period of time, leave a gap of 10cm-15cm at the front of your desk to rest your wrists.
#5 Protect your…hips
Avoid crossing your legs, especially for prolonged periods of time, as this can contribute to tightness in the hips.
Take regular short breaks and stand or walk around to help loosen off the hips. This can be so beneficial for your whole body as regular breaks and posture changes give your muscles time to relax as others - like your legs - take the strain.
Using a standing desk or a desk converter for periods of your working day can also help to stretch off the hips.
#6 Protect your…eyes
Reduce screen-glare by positioning your monitor so as to avoid light reflections from overhead lighting or sunlight. Adjusting the screen brightness and contrast can also help to protect your eyes and avoid strain.
Avoid wearing bifocals while working on a computer, as having to raise or lower your head to see the screen is bad for your neck as well as your eyes. If you wear glasses, perhaps opt for blue-light and anti-glare glazing. Consult your optician for further information.