In high school, I was constantly scolded by my teachers to stop leaning back in my chair. They said I would fall backwards and slam my head agains the floor. I never fell, but I found those molded plastic chairs so damn uncomfortable. "Sit up straight!" I was told.
Recent research has discovered that my teachers were wrong, and I was right. So there, Mrs. Cooper!
A study was detailed this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) that showed sitting up straight in the 90 degree position was actually terrible for your back.
Utilizing a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists studied 22 volunteers with no history of any back problems . The subjects assumed three different positions: slouching forward; sitting up straight at 90 degrees; and sitting back with a 135-degree posture—all while their spines were scanned.
"A 135-degree body-thigh sitting posture was demonstrated to be the best biomechanical sitting position, as opposed to a 90-degree posture, which most people consider normal," said study author, Waseem Amir Bashir, a researcher at the University of Alberta Hospital in Canada.
Back pain is the most common cause of work-related disability in the United States, and a leading contributor to job-related absenteeism, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Back related problems cost Americans $50 billion annually. So it seems those with ram-rod straight sitting postures are actually putting lots of stress on their spines and related ligaments.
"We were not created to sit down for long hours, but somehow modern life requires the vast majority of the global population to work in a seated position," Dr. Bashir said. "This made our search for the optimal sitting position all the more important."
So what are employees and students who spend so much time sitting to do?
"We have to do something that is similar to the lying position," Bashir reported. Lying down in a relaxed position with your knees slightly bent is the best position that a person can be in, because it doesn't cause any stress on the ligaments, the thigh muscles as well as on the back.
Judging from the researcher's findings, Paris Hilton has the healthiest back in the world.