It’s the time of year when Year 12 students will be spending a lot of time studying for exams, usually requiring prolonged periods of sitting, mostly in front of a computer. Uninterrupted, sustained postures can lead to neck pain, back pain and headaches which can significantly affect study output and academic performance.

Tips to improve performance and avoid spinal pain associated with studying:

  • Make sure that your study set-up is as ergonomic as possible. Avoid studying propped up in bed or with computer/tablet on your lap or on a coffee table. Ideally your chair should be adjustable in terms of seat height and tilt and backrest height and tilt. Your thighs and back should feel supported and your feet should rest flat on the floor or on a footstool if required.
  • Take regular breaks. If a long session is planned we recommend a 10 minute break for every hour of studying. Set a timer for 50 minutes then once it goes off re-set for 10 minutes and don’t return to study until the 10 minutes is up. It is amazing how much you will get done in 50 minutes and the 10 minute break will refresh you and help clarify your thoughts.
  • Regularly correct your posture. It’s normal to slouch with prolonged sitting or standing as the postural muscles fatigue after about 20-25 minutes. If sitting, tilt your pelvis to hollow your back slightly,  lift the top of your chest then tuck your chin in to straighten your spine. Hold this position for 10 seconds, relax 10% then keep studying!
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine. Research has shown that as little as 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise improves memory and concentration. Aerobic exercise and physical fitness appear to be important factors for the developing teenage brain (Herting & Chu 2017).
  • Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. Although high GI foods and drinks will give you a temporary sugar high, you will feel drowsy and have trouble concentrating as your blood glucose levels fall.

Good luck with your final exams and enjoy a well-earned break when it’s all over!