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The Healthiest Way to Sit at a Desk All Day


We certainly weren’t created to sit at a desk all day. Unfortunately, many of our jobs require us to sit for 8+ hours a day. Researchers state that prolonged sitting day in and day out can be as dangerous as smoking. It has been shown that sitting for extended periods every day increases your risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.1 On top of that, sitting can cause musculoskeletal issues including neck pain, carpel tunnel and back pain.

In this article, I’ll discuss the ideal set up for your seated workstation to decrease the risk of overuse and postural dysfunction.

Ideal Workspace Set Up

The image below depicts the proper set up for a seated work station.2 Here are the key takeaways.

Healthiest way to sit at your desk

1. Sit Straight-Up

As you can see, the individual in the image is sitting upright, with an ideal angle between thighs and trunk at 90 to 120 degrees. Her feet are resting comfortably on the ground to allow for roughly a 90 degrees bend in both knees. Keep in mind that short individuals may need a footrest to ensure their feet are resting flat.

2. Adjust Computer Screen to Eye Level

The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level. This placement reduces the strain on the neck and allows the individual to see the whole computer screen without excessive head and neck movement. It is also important to note that if you often switch between paper documents and computer work, you may want to invest in a document holder that can be aligned in the same fashion as your computer monitor. This further reduces the strain on the neck.

3. No Slumping

It is also important to remember to avoid a forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Ensure that you are sitting upright with no “slumping” at your head and neck. Additionally, avoid “the shoulder shrug.” Your shoulders should be relaxed and there should be no tension in your upper traps.

4. Bend Elbows

While sitting at your desk, there should be a 90-120 degree bend in both elbows with minimal to no bend at the wrists. When the wrists are extended, even slightly, for prolonged periods of time, you put yourself at risk for developing carpel tunnel.

Healthy Workstation Further Recommendations

Ideally, if you’re able, convert your seated workstation into a standing one. Many of the same principals can be applied. The only difference is that there will be no bend between the legs and trunk, with a slight bend in the knees. Some people prefer to have one foot on a step stool and one on firm ground. This allows them to alternate every so often. It is important to maintain an upright posture and keep your core engaged. The same rules apply for where your shoulder, elbows, and hands should be positioned.

While it is pivotal to have your workstation set up properly, it is important to get up and move as often as possible. I recommend getting roughly 250 steps every hour of your workday. You may also incorporate some exercises you can do in your office or at your desk. These include mini squats, heel and toe raises, shoulder circles, neck stretches and back stretches.


12-10-2015 10-10-34 AM Rebecca Simonds received her doctorate in physical therapy at Emory University, and currently practices at Drayer Physical Therapy Incorporated, an outpatient orthopedic clinic outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rebecca treats patients with a multitude of diagnosis from orthopedic injuries to neurological disorders. She is also certified in intramuscular manuals therapy, or dry needling.

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