A Guide To Good Seating & Posture


Sitting is a necessary and frequent part of our daily lives; we sit at home on dining chairs and armchairs/sofas, we sit in cars, in restaurants, at desks, and on buses. We sit for meals, whilst engaged in work or hobbies, or when socialising with friends and family. For some, sitting is important to maintain safety and to alleviate fatigue or other physical stresses, and for others it is a necessary part of our working lives. Whatever the reason, for the majority, sitting forms a large portion of our day.

As we age, the need to sit down may increase. Research cited by the British Heart Foundation states that, on average, people between the ages of 65 and 75 spend 10 hours per day or more in a sedentary position. By the age of 75+, this number has increased to 11 hours.  Bones and muscles become weaker, balance can be affected, and energy and stamina levels can reduce, making it harder to move around; in addition, the incidents of health problems can increase.

Prolonged sitting has been linked with several health concerns and so, in an ideal world, the solution would be sitting less and moving more. But what if we have to sit for long periods of time due to health, employment or other lifestyle factors? In this case, it is essential to have the right chair or sofa so that you have the correct postural support to help your body rest well and move better.

Comfort Posture

Many of us develop what is known, in Occupational Therapist circles, as a “Comfort Posture”. This term refers to the most comfortable position we adopt in a particular seat. If our usual furniture does not support us in the way that it should, then our “comfort posture” will be heavily impacted.

A good way of understanding this is to think back to when you went away on holiday, or you stayed at someone’s home for a long period of time. When you went, did you find it an odd, even painful, experience to get used to a different bed or chair? This is because your muscles (and brain) learn the most comfortable position to be in, and when we go somewhere new, our muscles are then challenged and put under new forces whilst we try to find our new “comfort posture”.

Once you have been provided with an appropriate chair that meets your postural requirements, it is usual to experience short term muscle discomfort, as your body learns to adopt a new and hopefully better position to rest in. In most cases this should last no more that 2-3 weeks, and less, if coupled with regular exercise and movement.

Your Spinal Curves

A healthy back has 3 natural curves:

  • An inward or forward curve at the neck (Cervical curve)
  • An outward or backward curve at the upper back (Thoracic curve)
  • An inward or forward curve at the lower back (Lumbar curve)

If you have the right chair or sofa, this will help maintain these natural curves and avoids stress or loading on joints that pull muscles and cause pain.

Complications of Poor Seating and Lack of Movement

There are several complications that are a result of poor seating and lack of movement:

Poor Posture
This can lead to increased aches and pains, risk of injury/falls and loss of independence. Poor posture can also cause problems with digestion; it is known to contribute to poor circulation; and your breathing can be heavily affected if you aren’t sitting in the correct upright position.
Reduced Mood
Several studies have linked lack of movement with increased mental health problems; including anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal.
Increased Risk of Diseases
Studies have linked excessive sitting with a whole range of diseases. Sitting for long periods of time slows down the metabolism and helping the body work as it should.
Pressure Sore Development
As we age our circulatory system becomes slower and we are at increased risk of developing pressure sores. Ensuring that your chair/mattress is suitable for your height, weight and body type and provides good postural support can go a long way to decreasing this risk.

But don’t despair, these complications can be avoided.

Finding your Fit

We have established that sitting is an intrinsic part of our lives; we also know that if we don’t sit in the correct way and with the right support it can have serious detrimental effects on our comfort, health and wellbeing. So, how can we sit correctly?

Here at HSL we have spent a long time, in consultation with our independent Occupational Therapist Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, developing and perfecting our 7-Point Seating Assessment™. In our HSL Stores, our Comfort Specialists will assess your unique needs and check that each of the following parts of your body are fully supported, giving you unrivalled comfort:

Hip Position
Bottom fits into the back of the seat.
If the seat height is correct, the feet will be flat on the floor. The entire upper leg should also be fully supported so that the knee almost forms a right angle.
Seat Depth
If the depth of the seat is correct, the calf should gently kiss the leg rest or allow for a flat hand to be placed between the calf and leg rest.
The correct width is vital to help spread the weight across the seat. It provides pelvic stability and prevents leaning to one side.
Lower Back
The lumbar area; the natural curve in the back, is supported by the chair.
Neck and Head
When the neck is supported correctly the head is not forced forward or too high above the back of the chair.
Arm Position
Elbows to fingers must be in contact with the arm of the chair. The forearm should be supported with the shoulders in their natural resting position.


And Finally…

After you have your CleverComfort™ designed chair or sofa, here are a few more tips to make sure that you have the best sitting experience possible:

Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes. If necessary use the chair arms to support you when standing up. Try standing and sitting 10 times in a row each time a TV commercial comes on – this way you’ll help develop the muscles in your thighs and stomach.
Furniture Position
You might need to plan out your living room position so that you are closer to household items you regularly use. You could have the perfect chair and position, but might lose the benefit of these if you’re constantly twisting or straining your neck, back and shoulders to reach for things, watch TV or speak to people.
Clear Space
Make sure that the floor space around your chair is free from clutter or other hazards. You don’t want to trip or stumble when you get back up.

To find out more about our exclusive 7-Point Seating Assessment™ visit a store, or make an appointment for a free Home Visit today.