Is your posture helping or hurting your game? Read on to learn about proper gaming posture and why it matters for your long term health and your game.
You might think poor posture just causes a little back pain.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. Longstanding poor posture leads to a myriad of physical health issues that can have a tendency to cause problems with mental health.
You read that right. The consequences of your posture stretch far into most areas of life. That's particularly important for you gamers out there.
Proper gaming posture will have an impact on your health, your gaming outcomes, and the general wellness of your daily life.
We're going to take a look at the ins and outs of gaming ergonomics today, offering some simple solutions to serious issues.
Let's take a closer look.
Why Does Posture Matter?
We should start by examining why posture matters. It's something that we're talked at about rather than talked to about in most cases.
If you slouch, people will let you know. The funny thing is, people never offer insights into why you shouldn't slouch or offer reasonable ways to improve your posture. Your grandmother's cries for you to "straighten up" probably do more mental harm than physical good.
Physical Health Issues
Instead of getting barked at by family members, let's take our insights from the professionals. Experts tell us that poor posture can contribute to headaches, poor circulation, difficulty breathing, back pain, digestion issues, emotional challenges, neck pain, fatigue, and permanent spinal issues.
Consequences of those problems might be heart disease, inflammation, and other chronic illnesses that are preventable if you choose to improve your posture.
Aside from looming physical illness, there's another angle to consider: your personal experience.
Your body feels better when your posture improves. Your internal organs aren't squeezed into a curved abdomen, your muscles aren't tense, and the circulation improves, allowing your brain to get all of the blood and oxygen it needs.
That means your mood gets better, your thinking clears up, and you're able to perform better than you normally would. All of the physical strain that your body undergoes requires energy to recover from as well. That's energy that you could otherwise expend in other ways.
Lasting concentration on gaming is a good example of how that energy might be spent. It seems like a miracle solution, but it's true. Your posture might be the bottleneck that's holding you back in gaming, social life, physical health, and general wellness.
How do you make the change, though?
What Does Good Posture Look Like?
What does good posture look and feel like? For our purposes today, we'll look at the proper posture while sitting rather than standing or lying in bed. Those areas are important to dive into, but sitting posture is the most important if you spend hours a day gaming or working while seated.
It's important to recognise that "good" posture isn't precisely the same for everyone. Everyone does have the same body parts and structure, though, so there are a few things that are objectively important to keep in mind.
The Trick for Finding Your Posture
There's a simple way to identify your correct posture. We'll get to the nuts and bolts of good posture in a moment, but this method should help you figure out what the right sort of seating feels like.
Sit down in your chair.
Now, send your shoulders forward and slouch your neck down. Find yourself in a fully hunched, slouching posture. Once you're there, move your head, neck, and shoulders back into a fully upright position.
Going from slouch to straight helps you reset your posture and come to a natural upright position. Here, send your lower back forward and allow the natural arch of your spine to express itself.
Give a gentle push upward (shoulders and head) and forward (lower back) and lean into that stretch for a moment or two. Release that stretch, and you're left with a natural posture.
You should feel upright but not stiff. You should also feel a little engagement in your core that's helping to hold you in position.
Distribution of Pressure
This natural sitting position utilizes the curve of your spine to minimize the effort that your muscles use to keep you up.
When we think about a "straight back" or "good posture," we imagine that our back should be a straight line. This is actually not the case. Straight backs are unhealthy and lead to a lot of spinal issues.
The natural curve of your spine has more of an "S" shape, dipping inward above the hips and rolling outward at shoulder height. The only straight part of your spine is the portion from the top of the shoulders to the top of the neck.
That equation, in theory, allows your body to move and perform naturally without putting undue pressure on the spine. Imagine the pressure you can put on a coil without it breaking compared to a straight stick.
A coil is resistant and flexible, much like the spine. A straight pole might hold weight for a while, but there's no flexibility, and it will break under lasting pressure.
The spine is a supportive aspect of our bodies. It holds down the fort, but it doesn't help with any of the fine motion or nuanced activities we perform. That responsibility falls on the muscles.
Interdependence of Spine and Muscles
When your head hunches forward and down for hours while you go on a raid, your spine takes a structural blow, but your muscles strain to keep you upright. That leads to upper back and neck pain totally independent of your spine.
We compensate for that pain by making adjustments to our posture, though. Maybe healthy posture causes you pain because your muscles are strained, so you opt to hunch forward or lean back. That's a more comfortable position for the time, so you keep using it.
That's one thing when you're taking a day to let a few muscles recover. It's another thing, though, when you're a serious gamer. If you game every day for three hours, you're gaming for more than 1,150 hours per year.
Many people hover around that number of hours. One study found that the average weekly gaming time was around 8.5 hours. That means the average gamer spends around 440 hours per year gaming. Over the course of ten years, that's 4,420 hours spent in a particular sitting position.
That can have significant consequences on the way your posture develops.
Okay. Now that we've sifted through all of the doom and gloom, let's offer a couple of solutions. It's time to examine how you can improve your gaming posture and have a healthy relationship with gaming.
Gaming Posture Solutions
The first thing you should do is look at your gaming ergonomics.
That means finding a good gaming chair that supports your back. You can't reliably maintain your posture without a supportive chair. Period.
"Supportive" means "designed with posture in mind." Your old desk chair probably doesn't support you and neither does the wooden chair from your dining room. We're talking about a chair that addresses the curvature of your back, provides lumbar support and offers ergonomic support for your head.
Even when you find the right chair, there are a few other considerations to make.
1. Head Angle
The reason our heads slouch forward, in most cases, is the fact that we're sitting upright and we need to look downward at our screens.
Take a moment to think about how your head is positioned right now. Odds are that you're looking at a phone or laptop screen with your head pointed at a downward angle.
That's alright to do here and there, but it's not a sustainable way to maintain your spinal health. The healthiest way to hold your head is straight forward. You should be looking straight ahead with the back of your head supported by your chair.
This way, your neck doesn't need to do any heavy lifting, and your upper back isn't supporting your head as it falls forward.
The average human head weighs 3.5 to 5.5Kgs. Imagine if you had to hold a 5Kg weight at your side for 3 hours. That's what your upper back and neck are doing for your head when you're not positioned correctly.
2. Leg and Knee Position
The next box to check is the lower half of your body.
Your knees should extend out straight, staying in line with the height of your hips. They shouldn't be angled upward or downward. We often send our knees downward when we extend our legs.
The knee should bend at a right angle, allowing your lower legs to fall perpendicular to your knees. That means the lower half of your body forms a right angle.
This position keeps the hips in line and supports the lower back. Your feet planted firmly on the ground hold the whole lower body in place and maintain proper posture.
3. Elbow and Arm Position
The positions of your arms and elbows have a massive impact on the way your shoulders rest as you game.
Let's look at a couple of examples. Say that you're on your laptop and it's actually on your lap. It could also be sitting too close to you on a table.
The point here is that your elbows are pulled back behind the line of your back. That motion naturally sends your shoulders forward, not to mention that you need to look down at your screen.
Alternatively, sending your elbows forward to a keyboard that's too far away curves your upper back and sends your shoulders forward as well. In both cases, your neck and upper back take the brunt of your weight and leave your spine in a compromised position.
The healthy way to position your arms is to let them fall naturally to your side, then bring your elbow up to a 90-degree angle. That leaves your hands resting at just about the middle of your thigh, if not hovering slightly above.
Crafting Proper Gaming Ergonomics
You're probably thinking, "this is way too much for me to try and do in my current situation." We get it. All of these things are a lot to think about.
Your chair, your desk, your monitor, and your keyboard are all integral pieces of the posture puzzle. Note that you can do some makeshift ergonomics if you have to, though.
All you need are a few tools. The first thing to address is seating, and that's best solved with an ergonomic gaming chair. If you can't afford a chair, you can provide some lumbar support with a rolled towel.
You can also position the chair next to something that gives your head some support.
In terms of the screen height, you can place books or other supports under your monitor to bring it up to eye level. Laptop users might have to make one or two purchases to improve ergonomics, though.
Laptop Additions to Support Posture
If you're using a laptop for gaming and can't afford ergonomic tools, make sure that you're using a table that's at the proper height.
Your forearms should rest comfortably on the table as they extend toward your keyboard. Also, make sure that the table is at a height that doesn't force you to stare downward at the screen.
The name of the game here is minimizing the amount you need to raise your arms and doing the same for the amount you need to tilt your head. Meet somewhere in the middle.
The cheapest solution to this issue is an additional keyboard. When you free the screen from the keyboard, you can customize head tilt and arm position as much as you want.
That will do wonders for your overall posture while you piece together the other ergonomic tools you need for spine health.
Need More Tips for Gamers?
Hopefully, our look at how to sit while gaming was useful to you. Gaming posture is extremely important and there's lots more to learn. We're here to help you with resources.
Explore our site for excellent ergonomic chairs, ideas on staying healthy, and other ideas that could improve your gameplay.