May 07, 2013 3:10 PM GMT
Stop for a second and notice the way you are sitting. Back curved, shoulders slumped, maybe legs crossed? For people who spend the day staring at a computer screen, this position is fairly typical. But what is it doing to your spine, if anything? Do we need to sit up straight to focus, like that mean math teacher once insisted? Here's some straight talk from one expert, Mladen Golubic, medical director for the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute.
Degrees of Comfort
Little research has been done on the best way to sit upright. One American meta study in 1999 concluded that sitting at an angle of 110 to 130 degrees was optimal for spine comfort. A Scottish study published in 2007 found that leaning back at 135 degrees is ideal to prevent back strain. While interesting, this sort of precision may be impractical for most people, Dr. Golubic says.
Sitting to Death?
His clinic sees patients with multiple chronic illnesses. Nearly all of them sit for long periods each day. The term Sedentary Death Syndrome was coined by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in 2002 to address the growing consequences of a seated lifestyle. "There are studies on Sedentary Death Syndrome that show that sitting for hours can cause anything from lower back pain to high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity," he says. In other words, no matter what position you're sitting in all day, it is pretty bad for you.