Does your back ache after you’ve stared down at your laptop for hours? How to avoid screen slump.

Sit up and stretch out

How to comabt screen fatigue

Photograph by Oscar Wong/Getty Images

There’s a reason they’re called laptops—and so many of us these days are using them, working from home, sunk deep in the sofa, or leaning over them at awkward angles on the dinner table. We’re doing meetings over Zoom. At night, we power up Netflix. We’re going out less and sitting too much. And our bodies are paying the price. From neck, hip, and lower-back pain to tension headaches and increased risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer, prolonged periods of sitting can be hazardous to your health. Here’s how to combat screen slump.

Sit up straight. No working from the sofa—you need a good chair. Can’t splurge on an ergonomic Aeron? Try a stability ball. “These help you engage your core and make you more aware of your posture,” says Kali Arnold, a certified Pilates, yoga, and reiki instructor. When seated, make a conscious effort to see that your hips are even with your knees, your shoulders are down and relaxed, and your legs are uncrossed, with both feet planted firmly on the floor. You could also spring for a standing desk—or just prop your computer on the kitchen counter.

Change it up. “Posture is meant to be dynamic,” explains physical therapist Brittany Albritton, founder of Rx PT. “You should be constantly moving and putting yourself in different positions throughout the day to avoid stiffness, injury, or pain.” November Nichols, founder of boutique wellness center L’Artisan Muse, suggests getting up at least once every hour, even if it’s just to refill your water bottle or walk around the room. Set a timer on your phone or watch to alert you.

Stretch it out. While you’re sitting, Arnold recommends a figure four stretch—crossing one ankle over the opposite thigh—to combat hip and lower-back pain. Albritton suggests standing facing a door and pressing arms against the surface in a “Y” formation to stretch and release the neck and chest, while Nichols swears by a quick cat/cow stretch to “open the front and back sides of the body, increase circulation, and loosen up the hips, back, and airways for proper breathing.”

Take deep breaths. “You might be holding your breath or clenching your jaw or teeth due to tension,” explains Nichols. “Focus on breathing fully and deeply, with long inhales and exhales, which allow you to be present and more aware of areas in your body that might not be at ease.”

This article appears in our August 2020 issue.