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Sitting with a curved back, shoulders slumped and legs crossed is fairly typical for people who spend the day staring at a computer screen. Have you ever thought about what it may be doing to your health and productivity? Dr. Mladen Golubic–Medical Director for the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute–shares his knowledge on the issue.
One American meta study in 1999 concluded that sitting at an angle of 110 to 130 degrees was optimal for spine comfort. A Scottish study published in 2007 found that leaning back at 135 degrees is ideal to prevent back strain. While interesting, this sort of precision may be impractical for most people.
Dr. Golubic's clinic sees patients with multiple chronic illnesses, and nearly all of them sit for long periods each day. Body posture determines the efficiency of your breathing. "Relaxed, straight sitting"—with the core strong, shoulder blades active but not tight and spine erect—"expands your chest, allowing you to take in a larger breath…and you'll have more energy and focus," Dr. Golubic says. To achieve this, sit away from the back of your chair so you don't slump, with your feet placed firmly on the ground.
It's not as though slouching will give you a hunchback in a day, but "if you do this day after day, and your muscles are not strong, the whole skeleton changes," Dr. Golubic says. "I'm not aware of any studies that look at the changes in the volume of organs like the liver and spleen when you sit straight or slump forward. But we do know that when you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation." When you sit up straight, he adds, "psychologically, your attitude is better."