girl stretching at desk

—Kelly L., Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

For many people, especially students, sitting is a major part of the day. While sitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, prolonged sitting, which is inevitable in the life of a student, can have adverse effects on the body.

The spine is naturally curved in a way that’s designed to help disperse pressure and alleviate stress on the joints and supporting muscles. With prolonged sitting, the first thing to go is good posture, which then changes the curvature of the spine. A 2007 study in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association found that there’s significant loss of proper spinal posture within 10 minutes of starting a computer task.

Think about how long each of your assignments takes you to do or how long you spend on social media each time you sit down to the computer. Chances are, it’s longer than 10 minutes.

Most commonly, with prolonged sitting, our heads will start to fall forward and our upper and lower backs become rounded. Taking just two minutes per hour to perform these moves can help you combat the negative effects of sitting:

1. Chin tuck

Become aware of your posture. Sit upright. Tuck your chin back into your neck (pretend you’re making yourself have multiple chins). A common mistake is to bring your chin down to your chest. That requires too much flexion of the neck and that’s what we’re trying to avoid. Perform a set of 10 repetitions of these chin tucks per hour of sitting.

2. Shoulder blade squeeze

Sit up straight. Imagine that you’re trying to bring the inner portions of your shoulder blades as close together as possible, like you’re squeezing a pencil between them. Once you have this muscle contraction, hold it for five seconds, then release. Perform a set of 10 repetitions with five-second holds per hour of sitting.