Attention uni students: slouching during class isn’t the problem, sitting still is!

students sitting at classroom desks

Attention uni students: slouching during class isn’t the problem, sitting still is!

students sitting at classroom desks

As a uni student, you spend a lot of time sitting down in lectures and in the library. Depending on your degree, you might spend a lot of time sitting and be concerned about your back and neck. But it’s time to bust the myth around having a ‘perfect’ posture and its link to back and neck pain. 

We’ve been conditioned to focus on having ‘good posture’, which means sitting up straight, but the notions of ‘good upright posture’ and ‘bad slouched posture’ are not backed by research (Smythe & Jivanjee, 2021). Not only is focusing on this an unnecessary distraction, it also doesn’t yield the same benefits as once thought. 

Emerging evidence suggests that the focus on ‘good’ posture, such as avoiding slouching at all costs, might not be as crucial as we've been led to believe. Instead, the emphasis should shift towards reducing prolonged positions and sedentary behaviour. Even four hours of sedentary behaviour during the day is associated with increases in both morbidity and mortality (Bull et al., 2020). As such, this change in perspective can significantly impact students' health and wellbeing. 

The importance of movement 

Incorporating movement into our daily routine is paramount. Studies suggest that taking regular breaks to stand or walk can mitigate the risks associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour. Simple strategies, like setting reminders to stand up, stretch, or take a short walk every 30 minutes, can make a significant difference. 

Practical tips for uni students 

As a student, integrating movement into your study routine might seem challenging, but it’s about making small, manageable changes, which is where advice from a physiotherapist comes in handy. 

Dr Joshua Zadro APAM is a National Health and Medical Research Council Emerging Leadership Fellow, Sydney-based physiotherapist and Australian Physiotherapy Association member, who completed his PhD on the relationship between physical activity and low back pain. 

Here are a few tips from Dr Zadro: 

  1. Take regular breaks: Every half hour, stand up, stretch, or walk for a few minutes. If you have long lectures where standing isn’t possible, make sure you schedule time for some extra physical activities later in the day. 
  2. Active study techniques: Consider standing desks, or even walking while reading or listening to lectures. 
  3. Incorporate physical activity into your day: Engage in physical activities that you enjoy, such as walking, running, cycling, going to the gym or even team sports, which can also be a great way to socialise. Be sure to check out the social sport opportunities on campus. You can also choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or instead of going to the coffee shop closest to you, try a new one across campus to get your steps up. 

Give it to me straight 

Trying to sit up straight shouldn’t be the reason your attention lapses and you miss something important during a lecture. While posture is related to pain and other health outcomes, its relationship is much weaker than we’ve been raised to believe (Smythe & Jivanjee, 2021). Instead, during your university years, focus on being as active as possible to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. 

Are you studying physiotherapy? Check out our APA Student Hub where you can get your free membership, which includes networking, events, practical advice, discounts and employment resources. 


Bull, F. C., Al-Ansari, S. S., Biddle, S., Borodulin, K., Buman, M. P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J. P., Chastin, S., Chou, R., Dempsey, P. C., DiPietro, L., Ekelund, U., Firth, J., Friedenreich, C. M., Garcia, L., Gichu, M., Jago, R., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Lambert, E., Willumsen, J. F. (2020). World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(24), 1451–1462. 

Smythe, A. & Jivanjee, M. (2021). The straight and narrow of posture: Current clinical concepts. Australian Journal of General Practice, 50(11).