The Ultimate Guide to Ergonomics: 50 Tips & Tricks for Serious Students

You might think that just because you’re still in college, you don’t have to worry about the physical stresses and strains that 8-plus-hour work days put on your body. But as a student, you put in a lot of hours studying and working, too. Besides getting regular exercise and trying to eat as healthfully as you can, you need to monitor your posture, especially at the computer and when you study. This is especially important for students enrolled in online graphic design programs or online IT programs as they will spend even more hours staring at the screen. Here are 50 tips and tricks for serious students. Think of it as your ultimate guide to ergonomics.

General Posture

Make sure you adopt these good posture habits whether you’re sitting in the cafeteria or at your desk.

  1. Fill in the space between your back and the back of the chair: When sitting in a chair, sit straight so that the space between your lower back and the chair is no longer existent.
  2. Keep your tummy relaxed: Don’t contract all of your muscles when you sit down. You can rely on the chair to help you with your posture without tightening your tummy.
  3. Keep your neck, back and heels aligned: If you draw an imaginary vertical line down your back, your neck and heels should hit in the same spot, too.
  4. Keep your feet flat on the floor: Make sure you keep your feet flat on the floor when you’re sitting at your desk.
  5. Sit down: Instead of sitting up, sit down, letting your chest relax down, but not over.
  6. Tuck in your chin: When standing, keep your head straight but your chin tucked in to keep your neck stable but not overexerted.
  7. Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle when sitting: Remember to keep everything aligned. Don’t tuck your knees in, which can make you start to hover and hunch over your keyboard.
  8. Draw your shoulders back and relax: Draw your right shoulder, then your left shoulder back and then down, and then take a deep breath and relax. After working for several minutes, monitor the position of your shoulders, and make sure you’re not hunched over.
  9. Align your hips with the base of your chair: Tuck your tummy in and sit so that your hips are touching the base of your chair back.
  10. Evenly distribute your weight: You shouldn’t lean over to one side when you sit: you should distribute your body weight evenly between both hips.

Computer and Keyboard

When you’re researching, writing papers, or playing on Facebook, be aware of how your body should be aligned to prevent injury and strain.

  1. Use a chair with a flat surface and straight back: This type of chair will support your back while you work at the computer.
  2. Place your ankles underneath your knees: When you sit, make sure your ankles line up underneath your knees for proper posture and balance.
  3. Your monitor should be at eye level: This is one of the most important tips to keep your posture in order. Adjust your chair and get the right desk so that the top of your monitor is at eye level.
  4. Align your wrists with your forearms: Keep your wrists in line with your forearms instead of bending them up or down, which causes great stress on the muscles and tendons.
  5. Bend your head slightly forward: Keep your head bent slightly forward and aligned so that you’re looking at your monitor straight on.
  6. Use a document holder: To prevent twisting your neck and body, use a document holder next to your monitor if you’re making a transcription.
  7. Keep your elbows close to the body: Experts recommend that elbows should be bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  8. Turn your whole body, not just your neck or mid-section: When you are sitting in a swivel chair, it’s best to turn your whole body instead of just straining your neck or mid-section.
  9. Take advantage of armrests: Armrests will help you relax your shoulders and keep elbows close to the body.
  10. Use a wrist rest: Use a wrist rest on your keyboard and on your mouse pad to make sure your wrists are supported and in line with your forearms.
  11. Bring your keyboard down: It’s best to avoid reaching up to type, so use an adjuster that allows you to type at a more relaxed level.
  12. Consider a slightly reclined position: A good ergonomic chair will allow you to lean back slightly, which relaxes your back muscles and decreases pressure on your lower back.

Sleeping

Believe it or not, sleeping in the correct position also benefits your health, can prevent injury and will help you maintain good posture habits when you’re awake, too. Check out this list for sleep-related ergonomics.

  1. Keep your pillow under your head: It sounds obvious, but pillows are meant to support your head and neck, so don’t sleep without ample support under them.
  2. Don’t sleep on your stomach: This rule is especially important if your mattress is weak, as sleeping on your stomach causes back strain.
  3. Get up correctly: Don’t just roll out of bed. Avoid cricks and muscle cramps by first turning on your side and pulling up your knees, swinging your legs over the side of the bed. Push yourself up from the sitting position by pushing down on the bed.

Studying

Libraries, study centers and your dorm couch aren’t necessarily designed with ergonomics in mind, so you’ll have to make some adjustments. Here are tips for DIY ergonomics.

  1. Bring a pillow or bolster: A small pillow, cushion or bolster will do wonders for your sitting or reclining position and will keep you comfortable for longer periods of time.
  2. Watch the weight of your backpack or messenger bag: A purse or book bag that’s too heavy will cause great strain and even injury to your shoulder, neck, and/or back. Try switching the way you carry your bag every once in a while, and only carrying what you really need.
  3. Don’t bring your laptop to bed: Balancing your laptop on your bed will cause you to hunch over and strain your neck, so leave it at your desk.
  4. Choose the right ebook: If you’re lucky enough to use an ebook in college, choose the edition that has the best ergonomic improvements and that won’t cause eye strain.

Exercises

Try out these exercises and stretches to give your body a break and work out some of the tension.

  1. Shoulder blade squeeze: Lift your arms straight out in front of you, then swing them out towards your back as far as you can go, without over-straining yourself. Bring them forward again and repeat a few times.
  2. Crunches: Anything that works out your core — including crunches — will help support your back.
  3. Stretch everything: Take little breaks to stretch everything, including your facial muscles and fingers.
  4. Work out your hands and palms: Fold your hands together, face your palms away from your body, and stretch your arms in front of you. Repeat up to eight times.
  5. Knee Kiss: As you pull one leg at a time up to your chest (or lips), hold it with both hands and hold for five.
  6. Superman: To do the Superman, lie face down on the floor, and lift your right arm and left leg off the floor. Hold for a few seconds, and then switch arms and legs.
  7. Quadricep stretch: Scoot your chair back so that you can stretch out your legs in front of you, and hold for five.
  8. Neck and shoulder stretch: Roll your shoulders back, and then drop your head so that your chin nearly rests on your chest. Move your head to the right, then to the left.

Identifying Risks and Injury

Here you will learn some potential risks for injury like carpal tunnel.

  1. The scrolling wheel: Overusing the scrolling wheel on your mouse can actually lead to pain and discomfort, so choose to click instead.
  2. Don’t cradle your phone with your neck: If you spend time on the phone while you work or study, hold it properly with your hand, and not by cradling it with your neck.
  3. Monitor your B12 intake: Ergoblog reports that B-12 deficiencies, which can be common among college students who aren’t vigilant about their diet, can lead to tingling feelings in muscles and hands, which is similar to carpal tunnel symptoms.
  4. Understand the difference between cumulative trauma and repetitive stress injuries: Visit a doctor so that he or she can help you correctly identify your injury and a rehab solution.

Miscellaneous Tips

From using a footrest to taking frequent breaks, here are more ergonomics tips for students like yourself.

  1. Take breaks: Ease eye strain and repeated muscle movement by getting up to walk around the room and stretch a couple of times every hour, at least.
  2. Test your posture: You can test your standing posture by standing with your head, rear end, and shoulder blades pressed against a wall. You should have one hand’s thickness between your back and the wall.
  3. Know how to lift your laundry: If you like to go weeks without doing laundry, don’t try to pick up the entire heavy load at once. Try lifting a few loads, and make sure you bend at the knees, not at the waist, and use your leg muscles to stand up.
  4. Use a checklist: Use this checklist to make sure your workstation has all the right components for promoting good posture.