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As part of my work, I am required to sit on pieces of furniture without any back support eg. Bar stool. My teacher reprimands me when I slouch saying that my focus will suffer if my spine isn't straight. Is this true? I'm not talking about ergonomics and chair design? I want to know if sitting straight genuinely has any concentration benefits.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

If your work requires sitting on the stool for long then it does have an affect on your concentration. Bad posture causes poor breathing patterns, restricted circulation, muscular strain, repetitive strain injuries etc. Because negative patterns of muscular use use up more energy,this saps energy resulting in weaker reflexes and can also cause low-grade physical pain.

Its all for your good. Stay healthy and enjoy working!!

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I've found that sitting on a exercise ball (= also with no back support) clearly improves focus. I need to maintain balance using the entire body and therefore I maintain correct posture as well. When sitting on a stool without back support, I eventually tend to slouch. On the ball this is not the case.

I've experimented with a standing desk and many other possible solutions (even a kneeling chair). But in terms of long-lasting focus, an exercise ball seems to work best.

(Plus, with this "method", you'll get six-pack abs in 6 months as well. I know what I'm talking about, seriously :-)

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It is extremely beneficial for you, but for a reason very different than you or your teacher might imagine.

It pays off greatly to exercise the part of your brain that does self-monitoring. When this muscle is well-exercised and strong, not only will you catch yourself slouching, you will also be able to catch yourself before you finish a bag of potato chips, or spend hours watching tv, or surfing facebook instead doing your homework. This muscle will help you focus on achieving your goals and keep you from wasteful self destructive behaviours.

Like a muscle, this part of your brain can be strengthened and it can be fatigued. It will also be very beneficial to learn to manage your energy reserves for when you need them most or to recognise situations when you are at risk because your energy reserves are low.

Here is a short article with more background.

Baumeister's book mentioned in the article is very good. However, I think Kelly McGonigal's Willpower Instinct is even better in terms of having more practical advice and exercises.

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I'll answer the opposite of everyone.

You're more likely to focus if you're comfortable and able to drill into whatever you're working on. If you're concentrating on your posture, that's energy you're not putting on task.

It's easy to focus on something like posture because it's visible and enforceable. The neural pathways in your brain don't work any better if you're sitting up straight or lying down in bed--they work the best when you're comfortable in your own body in the space you're in.

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I'd be inclined to agree with this in general, with the caveat that, as @RUPASHREE mentioned, any posture which measurably decreases the quality of your breathing or circulation will have a negative effect. And obviously, if you have bad posture by habit, spending time consciously working on posture will be detrimental to your productivity during that time, but if the end result (once proper posture is habitual) provides a marked increase in productivity, then there's an argument in favor of it. – asfallows Jun 21 '12 at 13:17
If you have bad posture you spent a lot of energy on tensing up your muscles. – Christian Jun 28 '12 at 10:19
@Christian On the contrary, I'm pretty relaxed--the issue isn't muscle tension, it's alignment and long-term effects. – Dave Newton Jun 28 '12 at 19:27
Leaning +120 degrees, is comfortable but makes you too relaxed in that you enter the "laziness" zone. So it's not all about comfort. – namar0x0309 Aug 30 '13 at 20:48
@namar0x0309 Speak for yourself. – Dave Newton Aug 30 '13 at 21:56

I believe that sitting with back straight really can improve focus and productivity when working. It is one of the most common way to gain focus rather than working without a back support. The tendency is you will be having some back issues that can distract you while working.

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One thing that I've found is that slouching for a while makes my shoulders tense up, and if I'm typing, can sometimes leave my forearms in a position that predisposes me to carpal tunnel fatigue. After a point, it's not so much that slouching ruins my concentration as the discomfort is distracting. While DIRECT causation is likely folklore, good posture works well for me in terms of stamina during stationary tasks of a longer duration.

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Thanks for the anonymous downgrade. :| Was it because @RUPASHREE reinforced my personal experience with a similar answer? Geez. – dwwilson66 May 16 '12 at 12:44
+1 Your answer actually seems more "scientific". – user2498 May 18 '12 at 20:13

I've noticed that my productivity was lowest when I used my laptop on my bed, and highest when using it at an office table. After some effort on improving ergonomics, I find that a really good posture does not actually improve productivity much.

The reason I was unproductive while lying down is that it's the position I take when slacking off. It's not that a bad posture is unproductive, but because I was most unproductive while in a bad posture. In a sense, lying down was a subliminal cue to not do work and spend all day on forums.

On the other hand, sitting at a desk was a cue that I should be doing work. There are mixed cues as well... e.g., I can't do any work when sitting at the desk in my bedroom, because that's when I normally play games. But after shifting the desk to the other side of my bedroom, painting the room, and no longer playing games on that desk, I was extremely productive there.

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