By Sara Talbert
As a Pilates instructor, I think of myself as a teacher of posture. When my clients walk in the door, I look at their posture and ask myself, “what are the best exercises for this person today?” When I teach Spin classes, my cues always involve “sitting tall” and “keep your neck” meaning don’t let your shoulders take over your upper body. When I ask my clients what they think is causing their back pain, they often reply with “sitting at my desk.”
Your chair is perhaps the single most important part of a healthy working environment. I’ve put together some guidelines for achieving optimal chair positioning for long hours at your desk.
1. THE BASICS
You should be able to sit comfortably in the chair, using as much of the chair back as possible for support. The lumbar support should fit comfortably into the curve of your lower back and your feet should be flat on the ground (use a footrest if necessary).
Start with your seat at the highest setting and then adjust downward until your legs and feet feel comfortable and the back of your knees are at an open angle (90° or slightly greater and not compressed).
3. SIT BACK IN THE CHAIR
Adjust the height and/or depth of the lumbar support to provide comfortable lower back support.
4. ADJUST THE RECLINE
If the chair has a recline lock, set this at a comfortable position. Remember to unlock this periodically allowing the backrest to move with your back as you change posture. It’s generally better to be slightly reclined, as this helps relieve tension from your lower back. If the chair allows you to, adjust the recline tension as you move back and forth so that the chair provides consistent support.
5. ADJUST THE SEAT PAN
When sitting back, make any adjustments to the seat pan (e.g., seat pan tilt) to reach a comfortable position. The seat pan should extend about an inch on both sides of your legs and should not apply pressure to the back of your knees.
6. ADJUST THE ARMREST
If possible, adjust the height, width and position of your armrests to one most comfortable for how you work. Keep in mind that armrests will be used only between typing sessions, not while typing or using your mouse. Consider lowering or swinging the armrests out of the way when not in use so as to not inhibit your movement.
7. CLEAR OBSTACLES
Make sure that the chair casters (wheels) move smoothly and that nothing obstructs your ability to position the chair in front of your desk and computer. Lastly, try and get up frequently and walk around. Find the water station at the other end of your work space to fill up your bottle. Your body will thank you.