The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Back to School - Healthy Sitting

The mind can only absorb what the tushy can endure. Better sitting can make better work along with better health. If your back or neck hurt from sitting, here is how to change it.

You don't need special or ergonomic chairs, keyboards, or desks.
You can sit well on a bucket. You can sit poorly and have pain
from an expensive posture chair. Many people do.

Myths of how to sit "right" involve strange rules - to keep thighs parallel to the floor, for example,
or feet at certain angles, or hips at 90 degree angles to the body.
None of these are necessary.

The photo of sitting, at right, shows sitting poorly. No mystery. The spine is rounding forward. Body weight presses on the lower back discs. The upper back is overstretched. The head is held at an angle that pulls on the muscles at the top of the shoulder. The post Don't Fall for "Don't Sit Up Straight" explained about a research study that found there is less pressure while leaning back against a seat, than when sitting vertically. That does not mean not to "sit straight" as the headlines said. With or without a seat back, sitting straight is still healthier than rounding.

The HealthLine team sent the photo (left) of one example of healthy straight sitting,

and a parody of exaggerated, strained, rigidly straight sitting, (right).

Anyone trying it would soon find that sitting straight like that is not worth the strain, with good reason.

To try better sitting now:

  1. Move your backside right against the chair back.
  2. Move your chair in closer to the desk.
  3. Lean your upper back against the seat back, not your lower back. Do not press or round against the lower back.
  4. Chin in loosely, not jutting or tilting forward over the desk.

What is a good way to remember to sit without rounding forward? Watch other people sitting, driving, at the desk, and when exercising and stretching. Their bad positioning will remind you not to do that to your own spine.

Many chairs, even expensive ergonomic "back posture" chairs advertised to have built in lumbar support, are built in a way that makes you round forward when you sit against the seat back. The next post on sitting will cover fixing a bad chair.

The body needs movement for health. Get up from the chair often to straighten and move. The post Exercise and Stretch for Long Travel Sitting will get you started. When sitting, use your brain and your muscles to get free, natural, upper back use by not slumping. Make the idea of good sitting about understanding healthy body use and positioning instead of memorization without comprehension. Make healthy body use enjoyable and interesting. This is the kind of learning that is in the best spirit of "Back to School."

Good sitting should not cause pain.

More Fitness Fixer for healthy Back-to-School:


Read inspiring success stories of these methods and send your own. Before asking questions, see if your answers are already here by clicking labels under posts, links in posts, archives at right, and The Fitness Fixer Index. For answers to personal medical questions - Replies to Medical Questions.
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Photo 1 by Terry Bain
Desk photos 2 and 3 by Healthline staff
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.