Sitting correctly is what most people don’t do. But what’s wrong with an incorrect sitting posture? We want to answer this question in the following article and show you how to sit correctly!

The sedentary lifestyle is getting more present due to today’s workplace and our free-time activities. According to statistics, we spend an average of 10 years of our life sitting. But this number only covers working hours. At the end of a long (and sitting required) day at work, most people sit in the tram or car for even more time and when getting home, they want to have a chilled evening. This often means sitting in front of the television while also looking at the screen of their phone. The more important is sitting correctly.

Richtig Sitzen - 11 Schritte für eine bessere Sitzhaltung: Evolution des Sitzens

As the years go by, we tend to sit longer with a resulting lack of movement.
Picture: Fiedels / fotolia.com

A German health insurance company (Techniker Krankenkasse) indicates that every fifth employee spends minimum 9 hours per day sitting. And often even in a posture not benefiting health. The occurring damaged postures lead to several diseases. A report of another German health insurance agency (Deutsche Angestellten Krankenkasse) from 2018 tells that approximately 75% of all German employees suffer from back pain frequently or at least suffered from it once before. In 2003, the number was still at 55%.

But there are also other problems in health resulting from a bad, incorrectly sitting posture. For example, in 2014, 22,7% of absenteeism caused by illness referred to musculoskeletal disorders, 16,6% concerned the psyche, the respiratory system was the reason for 13,7% of absenteeism and 5,5% of the employees were ill due to digestive problems. The correct sitting posture not only concerns back pain and therefore should be taken into consideration more often.

Sitting incorrectly – the most common causes for a bad sitting posture

das stundenlange Sitzen ist nicht selten eine überaus anstrengende Herausforderung. / Foto: Picture-Factory / fotolia.com

Sitting for hours is often a strenuous challenge for the back. / Picture: Picture-Factory / fotolia.com

The following health concerning problems can result from incorrect sitting postures:

While working at the office desk, shoulders can easily sink forward, and the back gets bend. The head falls to the front too which overstrains the neck muscles. As well the distance between eyes and the screen’s midpoint, which has to be circa 50cm, is not maintained. Instead, the posture is bent forward in order to get closer to the screen.

Therefore, a hunchback posture is hard to avoid. This is also the case when keyboard and mouse are placed too far away from the desk’s edge or when forearms can’t lay parallelly on the tabletop. In addition to that, incorrectly sitting occurs if the feet are not standing on the floor. If they can’t stand firmly, you will move away slightly from the chair’s backrest. Your feet and back get strained unnecessarily. Remaining in one position for too long also strains your discs which leads to back pain as well.

Consequences of a bad sitting posture

The consequences of an incorrectly posture are revealed in the previous shown percentages concerning the reasons for absenteeism. Besides an aching back and neck, an inconvenient posture restricts the digestive organs and lungs. Digestive problems and shallow breathing arise. The latter causes tiredness and increases the susceptibility to infectious diseases. Other consequences are problems with the feet’s, knee’s and hip’s joints since the joint’s connective and supporting tissue tends to get inflammations more often.

It is also possible that disorders of movements will last. The symptoms occurring as consequences for a bad posture are not only physical. The psyche is connected to the posture as well. An upright posture with a straight spine boosts self-confidence. If your shoulders are hanging down and the back is bend, not only people around you will feel your low self-confidence but you yourself will feel less confident as well. Starting with a feeling of despondency, it can develop into a depression.

Sitting correctly: instructions

richtig Sitzen: Anleitung und Infografik

Instructions and infographics: sitting correctly

With the help of our 11 steps guideline, from now on you will sit correctly:

  • You back fits closely to the chair’s backrest when sitting
  • Take advantage of the entire seat
  • Sit as upright as possible
  • Lower and upper legs form at least a right angle when sitting
  • Forearms laying on the office desk
  • Lower and upper arms form at least a right angle when sitting
  • Hips should be tilt forward a little bit in order for your upper legs falling down slightly
  • To take the weight off your legs and back, feet should stand firmly on the floor
  • You are sitting correctly when dynamically, not statically
  • Pay conscious attention to your posture
  • The correct sitting posture assists the naturally double S-shaped curve of the spine

Upright posture:

Richtig Sitzen: Das sogenannte dynamische Sitzen hilft dabei, eine gesunde, aufrechte Sitzhaltung einzunehmen

Sitting correctly: example for an upright posture

The correct sitting posture is characterized by assisting the naturally double S-shaped curve of the spine. This posture supports the back muscles because the spine gets strained equally and the back get strengthened.

In order to create these effects, you should sit as upright as possible. Your hips should be tilt forward a bit, so your upper legs are fall down slightly. To take the weight off your legs and back, your feet should stand firmly on the floor.

All of this should be done without slipping away from the backrest. The upper body posture makes a difference as well. Therefore, you should not feel any strain in your shoulders when sitting upright. At the same time, your sternum gets lifted, so it strives forward and to the top coincidently. A straight neck does not strain the cervical spine too much. For that you have to stretch the back of your head backwards and to the top. Your chin tilts towards the sternum.

Sitting dynamically:

In order to sit correctly, most important is the dynamic. You may take an upright posture as the basis, but you also should keep doing little movements while working which in turn requires paying attention to your own way of sitting. If you notice for example that your shoulders always move forward and you adopt a bending posture, lift your shoulders consciously and let them roll down to the back. Even alternately weight shift from the left to the right buttock will have a positive impact on your discs.

The principle of „40-15-5“:

To make your day at work more healthy, you should arrange every hour with 40 minutes of sitting dynamically, then standing for 15 minutes and the remaining 5 minutes you can walk. Because it is not sufficient to do sports after work, just integrate more movement to your everyday work. For example, walk the stairs rather than taking the lift or organize your office supplies in a way that you have to stand up when needing a file or the punch. As if to say, “sitting less means sitting correctly!”

Breaks for movement:

Sitting for hours does not benefit the health and makes us tired. That’s why you should stretch regularly so your circulation gets going. If doing so, your muscles get activated and you facilitate your blood flow. Your circulation will be improved, and brain will be supplied with oxygen much better. You can even level up your energy by small movements and after that you will be able to concentrate again.

Pay conscious attention to your posture:

Sitting correctly – with the help of the following method this surely will be easier for you. If you notice that your shoulders fall forward and you tend to take a hunchback posture during work, you must sit up straight consciously. Lift your shoulders and let them fall down backwards. Align your head in a way for your cervical vertebrae to be straight. Bear the naturally double S-shaped curve of your spine in mind and therefore strain your back equally. This will help you to sit in a healthy posture.

Office workout:

There are several exercises enabling breaks to move while sitting. For relaxing your shoulders and neck, you can lift your shoulders consciously, hold the strain for some seconds and then roll them down backwards. What also brings movement to this area and the spine, is stretching the arms alternately over one’s head. In order to decompress the spine a little bit while sitting, you can place your feet a bit wider than your hip is and then lower your upper body and arms forward towards the floor. Meanwhile, you can stretch your arms to the front and let your fingers move to the right and then left side. By that, the sides of your spine get stretched as well.

Alternatively, holding this position, you can reach for your elbow with your opposite hand and hang down your head heavily or rather try to swing it slightly from one side to the other. After that, straighten up slowly, one vertebra after another. In order to move your back muscles slightly, change from a hollow back to a hunched back a few times. For that, first, place your hands on your knees. Secondly, thrust your sternum forward while breathing in and at the same time, contract your shoulders behind your back.

When breathing out, your back has to be as round as possible. While spinning around, the spine gets relaxed as well. Just sit at the front edge of the chair, place your right hand behind your back on the seat and your left hand on the right armrest. Spin to the right side while breathing out and inhale a few times holding this posture. Pay attention that your head stays in line with your sternum. Spin further back to the middle and repeat on the other side.

Invest in appropriate office chairs:

Sitting correctly gets easier if the office chair is adjustable. A good office chair should be height-adjustable individually for your legs forming approximately a right angle when sitting. Meanwhile, your arms should lay at the same angle on the tabletop. The seat should be adjustable by tilting as well, so that the right angle can be maintained for the different body heights.

The upholstery of the chair should be soft enough to prevent back pain. This concerns the seat as well as the backrest which should also be adjustable in height. Armrests operate as a relief for the spine. Especially during longer work its feature of a forearm support benefits the back.

Adjusting the office chair and desk correctly:

richtige Schreibtischhöhe

Here it shows a correctly adjusted office deskon which you can sit properly. Thanks to the instructions, you should be able to adjust the correct office desk’s height within a few minutes.

To preserve the health of every employee, the employer should provide appropriate office furniture which supports a healthy sitting posture.

Since many employees work at an office desk for hours, individually height-adjustable office chairs and desks are more than appropriate. Office chairs should not only be adjustable in the height of their seat. The additional adjustment of armrests and backrest is important to sit correctly too.

We recommend the so called “synchro mechanism”. This means that you can adjust the tilt of the seat to the tilt concerning the backrest. If the armrests of your office chair are on the same level as the tabletop, you easily can place your forearms on the desk. This prevents from tensing up while working with mouse and keyboard. A height-adjustable office desk makes sense too. It allows to adjust the desk to the individual size of the employee as well as for the user to change between a sitting and standing posture. In addition to that, an office desk should leave enough space for the legs and have a straight edge which provides an appropriate distance to the keyboard.

Place keyboard and mouse correctly:

In order to sit correctly, an ergonomic line-up of the electronic devices is essential: at best, they are only 10 to 15cm from the desk’s edge. Therefore, you don’t have to lean too far forward while working and by that, avoid a hunchback posture. If your forearms can rest relaxed on the tabletop, they won’t get tensed up in the first place.

Appropriate distance between screen and eyes:

Richtig Sitzen: So sollte der Monitor aufgestellt sein, um eine gesunde Sitzhaltung zu ermöglichen

Sitting correctly: here it shows how the monitor should be placed in order to enable a healthy sitting posture.

The distance between your eyes and the screen should be approximately 50cm. Furthermore, the screen should be tilted slightly backwards, so the edge’s top is in line with your eye’s height. The tilt should be around 25 degree. The screen and your direction of view are opposite each other at a right angle. This adjustment prevents from getting neck pain because the head can stay straight and doesn’t have to be leaned forward. Therefore, you will counteract a overstrain of your neck.

Talk to your employer:

If your office furniture is too static and provides only few possibilities in adjustment, or even causes tension and pain, you need to talk to your employer.

For example, you can propose the purchase of height-adjustable office desks on which work can also be done by standing.

A study from the Institute for Health and Sport (IHES) of the Victoria University in Melbourne revealed that the time you spend sitting can be reduced by about 100 minutes per day when using a desk for both, standing, and sitting. So of course, employers care about the long-term health status of their employees too.

Conclusion: sitting correctly

Sitting correctly is not that difficult and helps you to make the day at work much healthier. It also prevents back pain in the long run.

Now have a look at your workspace. Are you able to sit correctly at your office desk? If not, we recommend implementing some of our tips as soon as possible. It will be best for your back!

The post "Sitting correctly in front of the PC – 11 steps for a better sitting posture" written by:

Stephan Forstmann

Experte für Home Office und gesunde Büroarbeit

Stephan is from Dresden, Germany. He is a founding member of Deskonia since 2009.

Stephan is a home office worker since 2013 and became a home office expert. He shares his experience and publishes various tutorials for a better life at the office und creates tutorials on topics like ergonomics and communication.

In private, he is also very passionate about photography. He loves to chat about photography-gear and composition an. Stephan also published a lot of photography tutorials.

If you want to get in touch with Stephan, you can easily reach him via e-mail: forstmann@bueromoebel-experte.de.

see all posts by author