5 easy ways to improve your posture at your desk

Working at a desk and improving your posture are two things that can often seem at odds with one another. Sitting hunched over a computer for hours on end staring at a screen does your body no favours and, if you often end the day feeling tense and a little stiff, it’s time pay a little more attention to your wellbeing. Taking time for ourselves throughout the day not only helps us to feel good, but it can also boost productivity too.

Here, Pilates teacher and founder of Pilates At Your Desk (PAYD), Kerrie-Anne Bradley, explains the easy ways for improving your posture at your desk. As a former ‘self-confessed sloucher’, Kerrie-Anne knows the simple tricks to improve your posture and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.

“I worked as an economist for ten years and had my fair share of knee, hip, back and shoulder issues,” she says. “Pilates has really helped to sort this out and every time I have to sit for a long time, I make sure I incorporate some of the PAYD moves into the sitting session – it really is amazing how much of an impact a bit of awareness and more movement can have on the body.

“I work with many clients with rehab issues, some of which have come as a result of desk working, and these people have benefited greatly from these simple moves.”

Sit correctly

Sitting properly is one easy step towards improving your posture. Make sure you’re sitting properly at your desk so that your muscles are balanced. Sitting on your sit bones (the boney bits under your bottom) can be a massive game changer for our posture. For the lower part of the body it’s all about right angles:

  • Have both feet firmly on the floor so that the foot is at a right angle to the ankle.
  • Have your lower leg at a right angle (at the knee) to your thigh.
  • Sit on your sit bones and make sure you have a right angle between thigh and torso.
  • Your ribs should be over your pelvis.
  • Keep your shoulders wide and down your back (not slumped forward and not squeezed together).
  • Keep your neck in line with your spine (imagine you have a smelly fish in front of your face).

Take regular breaks

Get up every 30 minutes or so and walk about. If you’re struggling to do so, keep a small glass of water at your desk and, every time it’s empty, walk to the kitchen and fill it up. That way you’ll stay hydrated and mobile.

Incorporate movement at your desk too. Slow shoulder rolls are an easy option. First, roll your shoulders in one direction and then the other, then do the ‘lift and melt’ technique – lifting your shoulders up to your ears and then melting them down your back.

Taking breaks from sitting in the evening is helpful too – try to limit the amount of time you spend on the sofa, get to an exercise class when you can, and pack in movement whenever possible (like dancing in the kitchen while you’re preparing supper).

Ditch al-desko lunches

Speaking of moving more, if you’re suffering from back pain and are still guilty of eating lunch at your desk, it’s time to break the habit. Your health needs to come first, or you could end up unable to work at all.

Your lunch break is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and get your blood pumping – even if it’s just a ten-minute walk around the block. Walking is great for reducing back pain too. Soon you’ll notice you’re improving your posture at the same time.

Don’t Look Down

Not having your computer or laptop screen at the correct height can cause serious neck pain in the long-term. Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. Position the monitor no closer than 20 inches from your eyes – a good rule of thumb is an arm’s length distance.

Don’t look down when you walk or commute on public transport either – this is so common nowadays, as we’re all on our smartphones. Where you look sends a neurological signal to your brain to tell your body to follow, so if you look down your body will follow, causing the neck and shoulders to slump forward. To avoid ‘smartphone neck’, hold your device at eye level.

Reduce your stress levels

Aside from the physical aspect, stress is a big cause of neck and shoulder pain. Workplace stress can often manifest itself in jaw clenching (if you’re a teeth grinder, listen up) – so check in on yourself to make sure you’re not unnecessarily tensing your face. If you are, open your jaw slightly to relax the muscles.

Remember to breathe properly too. Taking deep breaths is an instant calmer and is a great way to stretch those tight middle back muscles. Here’s how:

  • Place your hands on your bottom back ribs.
  • Inhale through your nose to a count of five, focusing on expanding the back and sides of the ribs.
  • Exhale fully through your mouth to a count of five.

Read our tips for reducing stress

Try Desk Pilates

Pilates At Your Desk (PAYD) is about good movement and can boost your wellbeing at work. It teaches you how to sit well, along with a range of simple exercises that can be discreetly done at work throughout the day to counteract desk posture.

Kerrie-Annie offers corporate workshops teaching PAYD and PAYD Extra (an advanced workshop) and holds lunchtime classes through her PAYD Weekly programme.