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Best Sitting Posture Is Not Straight Up 291

An anonymous reader writes, "Researchers at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland used a new form of magnetic resonance imaging to collect images from 22 healthy volunteers, who assumed three different sitting positions: slouching posture in which the body is hunched forward, an upright 90-degree sitting position, and a relaxed position where the subject reclined backward 135 degrees. They concluded that the reclined position is the best, and the forward slouch the worst." From the article: "'We were not created to sit down for long hours, but somehow modern life requires the vast majority of the global population to work in a seated position,' Dr. Bashir said. 'This made our search for the optimal sitting position all the more important.'"
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Best Sitting Posture Is Not Straight Up

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  • not surprising (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:19PM (#17021640)
    This doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. In order to get an idea of some fairly natural postures for humans, one need only visit the primate house at the local zoo. Of course, if you don't believe in evolution, then maybe you should observe positions at your local church (pews are good for you!). Just don't complain to me about back pain later in life.
  • Best for the back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:19PM (#17021660) Journal
    But not necessarily for the task.

    In other words, can you please do a study confirming (to my employer, of course) that this 135 degree reclined position does not adversely affect my the bloodflow to the brain, attention span, ability to perform complex mental tasks, etc?

    From my anecdotal experience with video games, I can definitely say that my performance is much better when I am leaning forward than when I am reclining -- though this may also have something to do with distance from the monitor, etc.
  • by greymond ( 539980 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:26PM (#17021830) Homepage Journal
    No seriously, that's what I was told, kinda.

    My work had some ergonomics person come in and monitor us for a few minutes and ask us questions about our chairs and desks. Apparently someone at my work must have developed some sort of carpal tunnel or something because in the 6 years I've been here this was the first time I was ever asked about how I liked my desk or chair. Anyway I don't actually sit in my chair, I tend to curl up into it, and essentially I sit on one leg at a time and lean to the left or right depending on which leg is under me. I also am a big fan of occasionally placing both feet up on the APC under the desk and leaning from side to side.

    In addition to this I don't stay in any one position very long, but rather am constantly shifting or moving from time to time. The lady interviewing me told me that this was actually good and that only people who confine themselves to one given position for a very long time (read entire work day) are the ones who generally have trouble or develop problems with their joints.

    So slither and fidget in your chair, it's good for you.
  • by scheming daemons ( 101928 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:32PM (#17021980)
    I work for a Navy contractor. Admiral Hyman Rickover, the founder of the "nuclear navy", was your typical hard-ass type-A personality.

    In his office he had two inches chopped off of the front two legs of his "guest" chairs, which forced guests in his office to be leaning forward. This put them in an uncomfortable position and gave him a subliminal "upper hand" over his guests.

    Adm. Rickover knew this 50 years ago. This study is nothing but a confirmation of common sense.

  • Re:Lessons from DS9 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoadStar ( 532607 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:40PM (#17022164)
    Likewise, if you look at the first season "Conn" and "Ops" seats on the Enterprise-D on The Next Generation, they were reclined at what I'd guestimate was a 130-140 degree angle... and much of the time, the cast was said to fall asleep in those chairs, proving how comfortable that seated position was. Guess they knew something too.
  • by starwed ( 735423 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:43PM (#17022218)
    But we're also taught to adapt the most relaxed position possible. (At least I was.) My various piano professors all emphasized the importance of a "natural posture." Any unnecessary muscle tension results in wasted energy and can impede movement and accuracy.
  • Welcome to the 70's (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpeedBump0619 ( 324581 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:43PM (#17022226)
    The summary is a little misleading. The article actually doesn't say anything about reclining, it is talking about a lap to abdomen angle greater than 90 degrees, with the optimal angle being about 135 degrees. This isn't a new finding, though perhaps this is the first research backing it up. People have been making kneeling chairs for a long time now. I had one when I was in high school.

    Since I have never found a kneeling chair that doesn't suck I tend to sit on the edge of my chair with my knees down, roughly approximating the "optimal" 135 degree angle. Rough on the chair, but over the long haul it makes my back happier.
  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:45PM (#17022250)
    As someone who has spent considerable time behind a real wheel (not a game) racing, let me say that you can be plenty attentive and not at all relaxed while your back is reclined. My drivers seats were never quite at 135 degrees, but they were well past 90.

    I agree you need a bigger monitor. Subconsciously you might be trying to get closer to the action going on in your monitor. When the scene is wrapped around you in real windows, there isn't the same desire to scoot the head forward.
  • by EchoD ( 1031614 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:46PM (#17022296) Homepage
    I've found the same thing. I try to sit back in my chair and recline a little because, at the end of the day, my back aches less. I also find myself leaning forwards when I'm getting into a game, but I try to force myself to lean back and relax a little. If I'm comfortable, I can enjoy the game longer, relax more quickly when I lay down, and fall asleep faster.
  • Re:Vast majority? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:50PM (#17022378)
    Well don't even consider the unemployed.

    They would spend their days either sitting on a couch or a bar stool. They would slouch backward on a couch, which is good, or slouch forward on a bar stool, which is bad.

    I don't have specifics but I'd bet there are 10x as many jobs not sitting at a desk as there are that this study effects.

    75% of the first-world economy is in the service sector. This tends to mean desk jobs. Farmers would probably spend a good deal of time sitting while driving equipment or filing for government hand-outs. Many factory workers would be seated, too, on stools to assemble small items. I would guess that less than 10% of jobs require a significant amount of standing/moving.

  • Re:Is it just me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:06PM (#17022724)
    Throwing too many researchers at a problem is like throwing too many programmers at an operating system. Plus not every researcher has a cellular biological background (or whatever...)

    This is actually one of the better pseudo-scientific studies at least, can finally get some closure on all those times I was told 'SIT UP STRAIGHT!'
  • Re:Is it just me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by udderly ( 890305 ) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:07PM (#17022750)
    Right. I'm moved my mouse and keyboard to try out the whole 135 degree thing. I have to admit that it does seem very comfortable for my back and hamstrings, my chair doesn't have a headrest and my neck is starting to fatigue. I wonder about moving the monitor closer to me, higher up and tilting the top of it downward some. Of couse I would need some sort of fancy mount to do that.
  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:13PM (#17022874) Homepage Journal
    If this news comes too late for you and you are already feeling the effects of your lower back being gradually compacted to the point where even standing up for much longer than 10mins begins to ache, then act now to reverse the effects!

    - Avoid sitting. Stand up and walk around every half hour. More often if possible.

    - When you are sitting, try to lean back like TFA says.

    - Every night, before you go to bed, decompress your lower spine: lie on your back and put a few books (about 4-5 inches high) beneath your coccyx. NOT the small of you back - I'm talking about the top of your butt-crack: there is a flat area of bone there, put the pile of books there and lie out flat with your arms over your head for a few minutes. If it hurts - then it's doing some good. If you feel a "crack" then even better: that's some tension coming out.

    - Turn over and do the "cobra" position. Plant your hands on the floor and jam your hips down to the ground so that your spine bends backwards in a massive curve. Keep this position (and keep your head and neck up straight) for a few minutes at a time.

    - If you're not fit, consider also doing some stomach curls (Google 'em) and lower back strengthening routines. The better your musculature is around there, the better those muscles can support your spine and prevent injury by sudden movement. Movement which, if your lower spine is compressed by lots of sitting, will be more damaging.

    There is it. Your 5-mins per day spinal insurance policy.

    Disclaimer: I am not a doctor - I'm (former) back pain sufferer that got rid of the pain by doing the above.

  • by kevintron ( 1024817 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:31PM (#17023226)
    Too bad the article doesn't mention what the researchers plan to investigate next. An angle of 135 degrees between torso and thighs puts you halfway to lying down flat on your back. I'd be interested in learning whether similar benefits can be gained by reclining to just 100 degrees, or 105, or maybe 110.

    Old-school management types might more readily accept a slightly reclined posture than one that takes your torso 45 degrees away from the vertical.

  • Subject (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Legion303 ( 97901 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:18PM (#17028676) Homepage
    TFA is broken at the moment, but I'm willing to bet the reclined position is only "best" compared to the others in the study. I'm also willing to bet the best thing for your back is a variety of seated positions to help flex your spine and muscles, and not one stationary position for hours at a time.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling