To Slouch or Not to Slouch?

Sure, the phrase “sit up straight” probably conjures images from black and white films shown to school children in the 1950s, but studies do show there really is something to maintaining proper posture…while other studies suggest the opposite.

Good posture means shoulders up (but not pulled tightly back) with an outward curve along the upper back and slight inward curves in the lower back and base of the neck. Studies even show that sitting up straight makes people think about themselves more positively.

Core strength and proper posture can help prevent ligament strains and hunches, stopping back pain before it starts. However, it’s difficult to get kids to think about back pain and dowager humps when they haven’t even entered – or just hit – double digits.

The ideal sitting posture (middle). Source: Fitness Programs for Life.

No matter your age, use a chair with lumbar support when sitting for long periods of time. Some school chairs and most office chairs have built-in lumbar support. If this isn’t an option, place a cushion between your lower back and the seat to support the natural curvature of the spine. Even swapping one chair for another can make all the difference in the world. In college, I typed papers and short stories while sitting on an old chair with a padded seat and wooden back. Of course, I didn’t leisurely finish these papers with time to spare – it was college, after all. I worked up until it was time to go to class, knowing I’d be in for an aching back the next day or so. Senior year, I got an office chair with lumbar support and the back pain disappeared (the late nights, however, persisted).

But maybe I was going about it all wrong. One Canadian study used a positional MRI – meaning test subjects had freedom of movement – to scan various seated positions. The least stressful position? Sitting at a La-Z-Boy friendly 135 degrees. The standard 90-degree position was deemed the most stressful, causing too much spinal disk movement. For more, visit

And if new chairs aren’t in your budget, try exercise balls. They’re a great way to correct posture, since they require you to balance – and balance requires you to align your spine properly. Plus they’re much cheaper than an office chair. We wrote a post on exercise balls a few months back.

Is proper posture a concern for your students? For you? What are your methods? Please share your thoughts below.

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