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Healthy and fit on the go: ergonomics and back health

Ergonomics: Is your work station healthy?

Ergonomics is the science of designing the work space to reduce fatigue, pain and injury so you can stay comfortable at work. Sitting at a desk or in a car, especially for long periods of time, can cause stiffness, pain and injury if it is not set up properly. Check the ergonomics of your workstation with these tips:

Chair:

Choose a chair that is adjustable, provides lower back support and allows your feet to rest flat on the floor when your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.


Foot rest:

Try using a foot rest if your chair is too high for your feet to rest flat on the floor.


Leg room:

Be sure you have clearance between your legs and the desk (about 2 inches) and there is no storage under your desk.


Computer screen/monitor:

Center yourself to the monitor and adjust the height so the top of the screen is just below eye level.


Keyboard:

Position the keyboard at the center of the monitor and position yourself between the g and h keys. Place the keyboard at elbow level so your wrists are straight and the pad or tray in front of the keyboard supports your palms.


Mouse:

Keep it close to the side (either left or right) and at the same height as the keyboard. 

Good habits:

  • Stretch and move frequently. Take a very short break every 30 minutes and get out of your chair at least once per hour. Stretch your neck, back and limbs.
  • Alternate tasks. Break up long periods of typing and mousing by performing other tasks frequently.

Back health

Posture:

The single most important thing you can do for your back is to use good posture in everything you do.

  • Stand up and sit up straight – don’t slouch.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with low heels.
  • Get enough exercise – at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Do exercises that strengthen your abdomen. Try weight lifting 2 or 3 days a week to strengthen the muscles that support your back.
  • If you are having trouble with your back, talk to your health care provider about exercises or physical therapy you can do to make it better.

Strengthen your back:

Try these basic exercises to improve your posture and back health:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly lift one knee to your chest and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times with each leg.
  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks and slowly raise your hips in the air. Hold 5 seconds then slowly lower your bottom to the floor.

Lifting:

Use proper lifting technique to protect your back:

  • Lift with your knees while tightening your core (abdomen and back) muscles.
  • Hold the object you’re lifting close to your body as you lift and carry it.
  • Ask for help if the object is too heavy or large to lift safely.

Reviewed in 2019

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