Stand (and Sit) Up Straight

Sitting is the new smoking—but the cure isn’t just more standing

Standing is best, but if you must sit, make sure you're reclined about 10 to 20 degrees. (Mapbox/Flickr)
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You should hold your shoulders back and sit up straight—but not for the reasons you might expect. Researchers in New Zealand found that people who sit up straight report higher self-esteem, happiness, arousal, a better mood, and less stress. Even more: That lowered stress can boost sex drive, especially in women. (Stress can increase cortisol levels, which suppress the body’s sex hormones. Lower stress equals less cortisol equals more sex hormones equals higher sex drive.)

Get started by checking your chair. When you sit, you should recline about 10 to 20 degrees, says Alan Hedge, director of Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory. “In this position, the lower back curves inwards toward the tummy, which is the most relaxed posture for the lumbar spine.” You’ll take body weight off your postural muscles and fatigue less quickly, he says.

Dynamic-back chairs, which move with you as you move, will help you achieve that gentle slope more easily than chairs that lock in specific positions. If you can’t get a dynamic-back chair, at least get that 10- to 20- degree angle by rolling a towel and placing it behind your lower back. Or invest in a BackJoy SitSmart Pro seat ($60) which changes the position of your pelvis to bring your lower back into a more ergonomic position, says Hedge.

Even better: Stand up. Consider a desk add-on like this Sit-Stand Workstation from Ergotron ($400) that slides up and down, allowing you to switch from standing to sitting. Then try Hedge’s 30-minute cycle for minimizing fatigue, maximizing blood flow to the muscles, and eliminating back pain: Sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes, move for two minutes, repeat.

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