Gaming posture: 7 tips for better health
Gaming posture is incredibly important considering the amount of time gamers spend in seated positions. Fortunately, gaming posture has become a hot topic in esports and in the gaming industry, in general.
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 cause health problems. Read our post, Physical health guide to your gaming grind, to learn more about how to break apart your routine.
How’s your gaming posture? Take the quiz!
Answer a few questions to see if your gaming posture needs a tune-up. Then, read below for our best advice on how to avoid the aches and pains of prolonged sitting. And remember, take breaks!
What is gaming posture?
The term “posture” refers to the position 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 & 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.
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, “proper gaming posture” or “proper seated posture” are difficult phrases 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:
- Early degeneration (arthritis) of the spine, shoulders, and hips
- Disc displacement (disc bulge, herniation, etc.)
- Nerve impingement syndromes
- Postural syndromes
- Deep vein thrombosis
Poor gaming posture and joint degeneration
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 (i.e. arthritis or “spondylosis”) which then leads to more health problems.,
One of these health problems is called stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal or neural canals where the spinal cord and nerves travel and exit the spinal column. Stenosis may lead to spinal cord and nerve root irritation, causing 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 and inhibited.
Complications of these muscular imbalances (upper crossed or lower crossed syndromes) 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.,
A “more appropriate” gaming posture
As previously mentioned, there is no “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 & neck relaxed:
- Head: if your gamer chair has one, rest your head against the headrest.
- Neck: to help limit postural 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. 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) upper body 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 (PC gamers)
- 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 carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes.
- Pull your chair in towards the desk so you are close enough to the monitor that you do not need to lean forward, following guidelines 1) upper body and 2) gaming monitor.
4) Desk position (console gamers)
- The height of your desk should be appropriate to follow guidelines 1) upper body and 2) gaming monitor.
- Likewise, to follow guidelines 1) upper body and 2) gaming monitor, pull your chair in towards the desk so you are close enough to the monitor that you do not 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 postural back pain and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
6) Hips & 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, sciatica (piriformis syndrome), or postural back pain.
7) Chair height, legs & 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, sciatica (piriformis syndrome), or postural back pain.
- Your knees should be bent approximately 90 degrees.
- Rest both feet flat on the floor below your knees.
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