If you’re reading this at work, take a moment to check in with your body. How is your back positioned? Is your computer screen in your natural field of view? Is your chair at an optimal height? When was the last time you got up? If you work at a desk for 40 hours a week, like many Americans, awareness of your body’s ergonomics and posture can help prevent big back problems down the road.

When we move around, the discs between our vertebrae expand and contract, absorbing vital nutrients from our blood. But when we don’t move, these discs may become misaligned and the spine’s supporting tendons and ligaments may stiffen, inhibiting proper blood flow. In addition, sitting for prolonged periods of time puts you at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks–it can push the lumbar spine forward, placing all of your upper body weight on one small area of the back, instead of being evenly distributed along the entire arch of the spine. There are a multitude of other health risks associated with sitting for too long, including muscle degeneration and heart disease.

So what can you do to help prevent these effects?

Fortunately, there are a range of actions, large and small, that can be taken to counteract those 40 hours a week of sitting:

Posture Check-Ins

Throughout your day, check in with yourself to make sure you’re doing the following:

  • Sitting as close as possible to your desk, with your upper arms running parallel to your spine and your elbows resting on your desk at a 90-degree angle.
  • Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, adjusting your chair’s height if necessary.
  • Use the whole chair! Many workers use an office chair that does have good back support, but sit only on the edge of the chair. Make an effort to press your backside against the back of the chair to take some stress off the lower back.

Elevate the Feet

Depending on your height, you may have to get creative in order to achieve 90-degree angles at both your elbows and knees. If so, consider using a footstool or other device to make sure your posture is optimal and that your feet aren’t hanging down all day. In addition, resting your feet throughout the day will reduce pressure on your feet, so your back doesn’t have to compensate.

Adjust Your Screen

While sitting in that optimal position, casually look forward. Are your eyes aimed at the center of your screen? If not adjust the screen so that it is–this has the added benefit of reducing strain on your neck as you work.

Get Up and Stretch

Frequent, short breaks tend to help relax your back better than longer ones, giving your muscles a chance to relax, preventing you from becoming stiff and tense. Plus, sometimes you just need to take a mental break!

If you’re suffering from back pain while you’re at work, exercising can feel like even more of a chore. Our posture-training shirt, can help you maintain better posture throughout your day and while exercising, allowing you to move more easily, with less pain.