Ergonomic tips for students

Oct. 6, 2022 — DENTON — Have you ever experienced neck, shoulder, or back pain when studying for hours at a time? Do you experience eye discomfort from staring at your computer screen? Study practices associated with being a student can be hard on your body at times.

As midterms approach, there may be late nights studying for your exams or writing papers at your desk, in your room, or at the library. We have all been there! We all want to do well and get good grades, but spending hours day-in, day-out hunched over your laptop is bad for your physical health. Poor posture when studying can cause long-term musculoskeletal injuries, which are injuries primarily caused or exacerbated by risk factors such as sustained and repeated exertions of awkward postures and manipulations. Just because you feel fine now, doesn’t mean you will in a year or two.

Luckily, TWU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety is a free resource to help teach you about practicing proper ergonomics. Ergonomics addresses the fit between the person, task and environment to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries, optimize productivity, and promote safety and health. By practicing good posture, you are putting less strain on your body. This will help you be more productive as a student. 

Here is an ergonomic checklist to keep you healthy and productive:

Step 1: Set up your environment

  1. Organize your workstation by zones
    • Frequent (items you mainly use; closer to you)
    • Less frequent (items you occasionally use; in the middle)
    • Rare (items you rarely use; furthest away from you)
  2. Reduce glare from windows and lighting
  3. Reduce noise from distractions
  4. Study in a comfortable temperature

Step 2: Watch your posture

  1. Raise the monitor to eye level
  2. Screen distance should be an arm’s length away
  3. Keep elbows at your side at a 90-degree angle
  4. Maintain neutral wrists and forearms parallel to the ground
  5. Rest feet flat on the ground and leave 3 inches of space between the back of your knees and the edge of the seat

Step 3: Move your body

  1. Stretch every 30 minutes, for a duration of at least 5 minutes, while seated
  2. 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from your screen for 20 seconds
  3. Stay hydrated
  4. Take a deep breath, count to three, and exhale slowly.

Even if you have the perfect posture and workstation set up, your body will fatigue if you are sitting for hours at a time. Our bodies are not meant to stay sedentary for long periods. It is important to take micro-breaks and stretch.

If you would like more information, please see our site for more ergonomics advice. Additionally, if you would like to have your workstation and posture assessed, please email Assessments for students on the Dallas and Houston campuses will be virtual or when Risk Management staff are on campus and time permits. Watch for more student resources on TWU's Environmental Health & Safety pages in November!


Ciria Vasquez, M.S., OTD-S 

Page last updated 3:01 PM, October 6, 2022