Gaming posture: 7 tips for better health
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Gaming posture is incredibly important considering the amount of time gamers spend in seated positions. Fortunately, gaming posture is an extremely popular topic in the community. Many health care professionals, gamers, and organizations are trying to bring awareness to the importance of body mechanics during long hours of practicing, streaming, or competing.
Perhaps the most important part of sitting is the break from sitting. Regardless of how well you maintain your posture, sitting can still cause health problems. Read our post, Physical health guide to your gaming grind, to learn more about how to break apart your routine.
What is gaming posture?
The term posture refers to the static position in which you hold your body while standing or sitting. Gaming posture, therefore, is simply the position you hold your body while gaming. And, most often, this is in a seated position.
When analyzing posture, we look at the entire person from the ground up, and each part of the body is significant in an attempt to maintain health and wellness while sitting and gaming.
On this page, we will take a look at the optimal body positions for gaming posture. But first, it is important to understand the risks of less-than-optimal body positions.
The trouble with seated gaming posture
First and foremost, sitting in a chair is not an anatomically normal position no matter what kind of chair you sit in!
The natural resting position for a human is a squat position; for example, you may notice toddlers squat on their heels to rest. Similarly, in areas of the world that are less-developed—where chairs are not always available—people will squat on their heels to rest, to eat, and to have bowel movements.
For those of us who have been sitting in chairs for most of our lives, our bodies have become accustomed to this abnormal resting position. In fact, most people in more developed parts of the world are unable to stay balanced or experience pain or discomfort in a squat position—our joints lack mobility and/or our muscles are too tight.
Because chairs are anatomically unnatural, phrases such as “proper gaming posture” or “proper seated posture” are difficult to promote. Based on the anatomically appropriate resting position, sitting in a chair is not proper posture.
However, we can and should attempt to make the best of a bad situation. There is certainly a “more appropriate” way to sit that can help reduce the risks of prolonged, seated gaming posture.
Risks of poor gaming posture
You may have heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking,” in an attempt to emphasize the health risks associated with prolonged sitting.
Truthfully, is sitting as harmful as smoking? No, absolutely not. Smoking cigarettes is still significantly worse than sitting; however, the risks of prolonged sitting should not be understated.
Poor posture and prolonged sitting increase the risk for:
Poor gaming posture and joint degeneration
Less-than optimal seated postures may create forces greater than 150% of body weight on the spine. The increased pressure on the discs and bones of the spine can lead to early degeneration (e.g., arthritis or “spondylosis”) which may lead to more significant health concerns.
One of these possible concerns is called stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, where the cord travels, or neural canals, where the spinal nerve roots exit the spinal column. Stenosis may lead to spinal cord and nerve root irritation which may cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms, trunk, or legs.
Poor gaming posture and muscles
Prolonged seated postures have the potential to create remarkable tightness or imbalance in musculature. Most importantly are the effects in the hip and shoulder regions of the body.
Chronic seated positions create tightness in the muscles in the front of the body—the hip flexors and the pectoral muscles, among others—that all tend to pull the body forward into a flexed position.
Additionally, the muscles of the back of the body—which hold the body upright against gravity—become weak or inhibited.
Complications of these muscular imbalances (upper crossed syndrome or lower crossed syndrome) may include muscular pain, joint pain, tension-type headaches, compression of nerves or blood vessels (such as thoracic outlet syndrome), and early degeneration of joints throughout the body.
How can you fix your posture?
Sometimes, a simple reminder can help to keep your body in a better position. However, prolonged sitting—especially in a poor position—will create the muscular imbalances described earlier.
When this happens, simply thinking about sitting more appropriately may still be ineffective. So, we developed Power-Up Posture with 21 exercise and stretches to help improve your posture!
Power-Up Posture: gamer guide to a healthy career
Power-Up Posture is an exercise and stretch program designed to counter the ill-effects of prolonged sitting—more specifically—the ill-effects of prolonged sitting with poor posture.
Sitting for extended periods of time puts your body in an unfavorable position. In response, some muscles will become hypertonic (tight). Other muscles will become inhibited (weak).
Fortunately, Power-Up Posture is a comprehensive program to stretch and relax hypertonic muscles and to stimulate activation and strengthening of inhibited muscles.
Through participation of this program, you can effectively prevent or reverse these muscular imbalances and reduce pain associated with prolonged sitting and poor posture.
A “more appropriate” gaming posture
As previously mentioned, there is no such thing as “proper gaming posture.” But, here are some tips to minimize the risks associated with prolonged sitting.
1) Upper body
To relieve pressure on the discs in the neck and to help keep the muscles in your shoulders and neck relaxed:
- Head: if your gamer chair has one, rest your head against the headrest.
- Neck: to help reduce the risk for neck pain and tension-type headaches, keep your head back and your chin tucked so your ears are on the same plane line as your shoulders.
- Shoulders: avoid shrugging and rounding your shoulders. Pull your shoulder blades downward and back towards each other, and rest your upper back on the back rest of your chair. Rounding forward may lead to upper crossed syndrome or thoracic outlet syndrome.
2) Gaming monitor
- As a general rule, the size of the screen in inches is the distance you should position the monitor from your face. However, the distance from your face—regardless of screen size—should be no less than 20 inches.
- The top 1/3 – 1/4 of your gaming monitor should be level with your eyes. Therefore, the monitor will be tilted at a slight angle upward to meet your eyes.
- Following these rules will make it easier to maintain the posture guidelines in Part 1 and will aid to prevent eye strain!
3) Arm rests
- Set your arm rests just high enough so your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees.
- Your arms should rest gently on the arm rests rather than being propped up. Too much pressure from the arm rests on your forearms may lead to cubital tunnel syndrome.
- If your arms are not properly resting, you may also be using the muscles at your shoulder to hold your arms up. This may lead to a condition known as mouse shoulder.
4) Desk position
- The height of your desk should be just high enough that it clears the top of your thighs.
- The height of your desk should also be low enough that your forearms rest parallel with the floor and the table. If your desk is too high, your elbows and/or wrists will be strained to clear the height of the desk, potentially leading to mouse elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome or cubital tunnel syndrome.
- Pull your chair in towards the desk so you’re close enough to the monitor that you don’t need to lean forward, following guidelines Part 1 and Part 2.
- The height of your desk should be appropriate to follow guidelines Part 1 and Part 2.
- Likewise, to follow guidelines Part 1 and Part 2 pull your chair in towards the desk so you’re close enough to the monitor that you don’t need to lean forward.
5) Back rest
- If your gamer chair has the option, recline the back of the seat 90-120 degrees.
- Try to keep your lower back pressed against the chair. Sitting away from the back rest may lead to a slouched position.
- Sitting upright or with the chair slightly reclined takes pressure off the discs in your back and will help reduce the risk for lower crossed syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
6) Hips and thighs
- Sit with your hips all the way back in the chair so your back is pressed against the back rest.
- Keep both thighs flat on the chair. Sitting cross-legged or otherwise off balance may lead to conditions such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, piriformis syndrome (sciatica), or lower crossed syndrome.
7) Chair height, legs, and feet
- The chair height should allow your feet to rest flat on the floor with no additional strain on your legs. Too high and your feet may dangle freely. Too low and your thighs will not rest flat on the seat. Both issues may lead to sacroiliac joint dysfunction, piriformis syndrome (sciatica), or lower crossed syndrome.
- Your knees should be bent approximately 90 degrees.
- Rest both feet flat on the floor below your knees.