Our dedication to a perfect seated position has fuelled an entire industry, geared to getting us to sit up straight. We spend billions of pounds each year on posture correcting chairs, apps and even clothing – but emerging evidence suggests that slouching may not be so evil after all.
Physiotherapists at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton-on-Tees who carried out the investigation concluded that some slouching can ‘provide a valuable alternative to upright sitting’ in patients with lower-back pain.
‘Because these muscles are chronically over-active in people with lower-back pain, some periodic relaxation of them is helpful.
‘Alternating between comfortable and relaxed upright and slumped postures is probably the best way to sit at your desk.’
Trying too hard to sit as we are told to at work – feet flat on the floor, back straight and shoulders back with an S-shape curve to the spine – can backfire, causing tension in the middle back and breathing problems over time.
In studies published in the journal Spine, Australian researchers found a combination of slumping and sitting upright was far superior to sitting in one position for maintaining a stable spine and strong muscles.
Another study, published in the journal Ergonomics supports the benefits of switching positions throughout the day.
The researchers found that those only using ‘standing desks’ had significantly more leg and back pain. Adjustable desks that allow some sitting and some standing are better, but Smith says they are not a cure-all.