How to sit smarter and survive the workweek

Align your body, embrace the chair, and get more done

Editor's note: This story was updated on September 26, 2017.

Sitting at a desk isn't as easy as it looks.

Long hours in the office often means neck or back pain, and common misunderstandings of what makes for "good posture" can exacerbate the issue. 

Standing desks are trendy, but a recent study found they may not help with health as much as previously thought, and standing for extensive periods of time may result in ankle and calf problems.

So alignment expert Taylor Hatcher, a personal trainer and the owner of Dynamic Alignment Training Center, developed a "desk-jockey program" for people who log long hours in front of their computers. "It's about alignment points," she says.

The goal is to relax. "Tension from holding a position means you aren't breathing right," she says. "And if you're not breathing right, you're probably not getting any work done."

So what's the best way to sit, according to Hatcher?

1. Align your head, middle back, and lower back, and keep your eyes pointed forward—not down at a screen. (This may necessitate boosting your computer up a bit with a stand.)

Sitting on the floor against the wall will help train your body to do this. Extend your legs out and press your lower back, middle back, and head against the wall.

2. Avoid puffing your chest up and squeezing your shoulder blades together—it will create a muscle imbalance. "That's the worst thing you can do," Hatcher says.

3. Point your sit bones straight down. Don’t tilt your pelvis or lean forward, which makes you slouch or hyperextends your lower back respectively.

4. Keep your legs hip-width apart, knees just forward of your ankles, and your toes pointed forward. Adjust your chair to keep your thighs parallel to the ground.

Break from the desk

It helps to change up where you're sitting too; relocating once in a while makes you sit in a different position. And if you can, Hatcher recommends taking a short walk as an opportunity to respond to emails and clean out your inbox on your smartphone (Cockrell, Outside, 3/17).

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