Sitting on your bottom

homework-1421562-1279x1079‘Sit up straight!’ your mother would shriek at you as you hunched over your school homework. You rolled your eyes, then made a feeble effort at complying. If you were taller than everybody else in the playground as I was, your natural position was slumpissimus.

As we grew older, it slowly dawned on us that mothers might have known best, but we shrugged it off. Now as supposedly mature adults, we are catching the results of a life of slouching. Well, I am, at least. Today as I go to the diagnostic clinic for my second spine and hip MRI in three years, I realise Mother Was Right.

I suspect that a training accident when I was in uniform hasn’t helped; I jarred my spine when I fell off an assault course. Now I have an uncomfortable time sitting for longer than thirty minutes – most unhelpful for a writer.*(update)

Quite why we walk upright is still under discussion. Now research tells us sitting is going to kill us early.I think the best thing would be to have a nice lie down. But that’s not particularly good for us either as our muscles waste without being used.

We know the benefits that good posture brings:

  • Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
  • Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
  • Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
  • Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
  • Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
  • Prevents strain or overuse problems.
  • Prevents backache and muscular pain.
  • And for the vain among us (including me), it contributes to a good appearance.

MRI-PhilipsSadly, many of us failed to implement. Many years ago, our bodies were young and strong. Backache was for old people. Hm. Well, you certainly find out your posture sins when you get older.

I shall contemplate these as I roll into the maw of the MRI machine today, endure the banging and grinding of all those magnets and the polite but inevitably censorious remarks of the doctors afterwards. In the meantime, I keep taking the painkillers to deaden the pinching pain and try to sit up straight. *(update below)

Hints for sitting on your bottom properly

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • All three normal back curves should be present while sitting. A small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll can be used to help you maintain the normal curves in your back. Here’s how to find a good sitting position when you’re not using a back support or lumbar roll:
    • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely
    • Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds
    • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (use a foot rest or stool if necessary). Your legs should not be crossed.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

With thanks to Cleveland Clinic online

*2018 Update: Nothing functionally/mechanically wrong – it’s a rampant nerve. After 18 months, I’ve stopped the medication as I didn’t feel well on it and am concentrating on stretches, walking, swimming and massage. Oh, and losing a bit of weight!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIAINSURRECTIO and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is available for download now. Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

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