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Woman with good posture holding a stack of books on top of her head.
Vania Hasegawa Sep 20, 20235 min read

Classroom ergonomics: How to Maintain Good Posture and Avoid Back Pain

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Mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body) This legendary line from Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal, who was born in 55 AD, shows us that the importance of mind and body has been recognised since ancient times.

In addition to having great resources to work with, a solid teaching plan, and caring for the students learning, it is critical that teachers take care of their physical health, which involves being physically active as well as maintaining good posture throughout the day.

We did some research and spoke with Viviana Zenteno, an occupational therapist from Norway, about how we might help teachers, school office staff, and students keep good posture throughout the day. And here's what we discovered:

1. Proper seated posture

Illustration showing proper posture while sitting.

Educators who spend most of their day sitting should pay close attention to their seating position.

If you have the opportunity, Viviana recommends starting and ending your day standing. If you have an adjustable desk, you can raise it during the last hour of your work day, and then it’s already in place for you to start the next day standing. Keep in mind that variation is necessary to avoid overloading the body and to properly distribute weight, so it’s important to alternate between sitting and standing.

Everyone should ideally have an adjustable chair because it will allow you to adjust your seat so that your feet are level with the floor or on a footrest and that an ergonomic chair or cushion is supporting your lower back. Crossing your legs is something you should avoid because it might lead to poor spinal alignment.

2. Standing posture

Woman demonstrating good posture while standing.

Source: Postural Awareness – Stanford University

If you spend a lot of time standing, whether for teaching or other purposes, you should be aware of your standing posture. It is critical to keep the body weight properly distributed on both feet while keeping the knees slightly bent and the core engaged.

Avoid slouching or leaning to one side excessively, as this can strain the back and neck.

3. Ergonomics equipment and adjustments

Illustration showing the best posture for sitting at a desk.

Source: Best Posture for sitting at a desk all day – Sydney Sports & Exercise Physiology

Make sure your workstations are ergonomically designed to promote healthy posture. Adjusting the height of the chair and workstation to ensure optimum alignment is part of this.

The computer monitor should be around an arm's length away and at eye level, with the keyboard and mouse positioned to reduce excessive strain on the wrists and arms.

Viviana says that how the arms are placed on the desk is super important. The forearm should rest naturally on the desk, and when you sit correctly, you prevent the head from falling forward and putting strain on the neck.

4. Take regular breaks and stretch

Don’t forget to take regular breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around. Stretching and exercising, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW), boost blood flow to body areas, which reduces the buildup of toxins that can contribute to injuries.

According to Viviana, focusing on chest, back, and neck stretches throughout the day is critical. Short breaks can assist in reducing muscle tension and exhaustion caused by long periods of sitting or standing, and they also help deal with any kind of discomfort or avoid tension in the area.

Here are some examples of what you can do in your mini breaks:
- T Stretch for the chest
- Rowing exercises
- Wrist and hand stretches
- Arms, Shoulder, Chest, and Back Stretching Exercises

5. Physical fitness and core strength

Regular physical activity and activities that develop core strength might help keep your posture in good shape. This means you may either workout at home or join a yoga, Pilates, or strength training gym, which can assist in improving posture and total body alignment.

If you want to get started right away, here are some useful examples to get you started. But remember to take it carefully and to stop if you experience any discomfort.

Core exercises:
- The best home core workouts for beginners – Runner’s World
- 5 core exercises for beginners – Brio Leisure
- 3 Min Beginner Core Workout
- Yoga For Healthy Posture – Yoga with Adriene
- 10 min Morning Yoga For Neck & Upper Back Relief – Yoga with Kassandra
- Yoga For Correct Posture – Ventuno Yoga

Posture education for students

Illustration showing a child sitting at a desk with good posture.

Source: Ergonomic Trends - Ergonomic Sitting for Children

As educators, we naturally care about our students' well-being. While a deeper discussion on this topic deserves its own article, here are some basic tips to share with your students.
According to Ergonomic Trends, ensuring good seated posture in children is crucial. To simplify, just remember the 90-90-90 rule:

  • Keep a 90-degree angle at the hips.
  • Maintain a 90-degree angle at the knees.
  • Ensure a 90-degree angle at the ankles.

These guidelines can help your students stay comfortable and healthy while sitting in class.

To help students, Viviana gives us another great tip: It’s also important to vary positions for the students: let them stand and write towards a wall, or lay on their stomachs and read. Primary schools are often good at doing this, but it should also be incorporated with older kids.

Have you heard about tech neck?

Man sitting in front of a computer while looking down on his phone and bending his neck, demonstrating a classic tech neck.

"Tech neck," sometimes known as "text neck," is a modern phrase for an age-old problem: neck discomfort caused by repetitive strain and injury to the muscles and surrounding tissue in the cervical spine, according to Dr. John S. Michels, MD.

During our talk, Viviana emphasised the importance of maintaining proper posture to prevent the head from tilting forward and placing undue stress on the neck. Incorrect sitting positions, particularly when using a computer or mobile phone, can worsen shoulder and neck problems. For students, avoiding the distraction of aching neck and back muscles can significantly improve their ability to stay focused for extended periods.

You can put a lot of pressure on your neck if you bend it forward. According to a study published in Surgical Technology International, an adult’s head weighs 4,5 to 6 kg in neutral position, and if you tilt it forward 45 degrees, the forces increase to 24 kg,

Unfortunately, the human neck is not meant to cope with such lengthy and extreme tension. As a result, this causes muscle and ligament strain, as well as other structural abnormalities that appear as severe neck symptoms.

To avoid getting a tech neck. Dr. John S. Michels, MD, offers some advice:

  • Keep your phone or screen at eye level.
  • Stretch your neck to relieve the strain on your neck muscles.
  • Develop good overall posture and learn to recognise what that feels like.


Bye neck and back pain

After gaining insights into maintaining appropriate posture in the classroom and supporting students in doing so, it's time to pass on this important knowledge. Share these tips with your colleagues, family members, and students to improve yuor daily well-being and maybe reduce suffering.