Even when we think we are resting, some muscles are working. Sitting or standing in a slumped position can, over time become a habit – one that doesn’t look good and can actually be bad for your health. Beyond the more obvious consequences of sore muscles, poor posture can affect breathing, digestion, mood and more.
The good news is that the solution can be fairly simple. Family Circle writer Amy Roberts looked into ways to improve your posture and found a number of simple moves can do the trick.
The prevalence of modern technology means that many Americans spend extended periods of time sitting down. Whether it’s an office job, watching TV or gaming, the results can be the same. You can combat this by setting up your seat in a supportive manner. In setting up your workstation ergonomically, you minimize the strain on your body.
- Put your feet flat on the floor (use a footstool if your feet cannot reach the floor) so your knees are level with or slightly lower than your hips.
- If your chair does not fit you properly, a lumbar support or roll can fill in the gaps to allow you to sit back with your shoulders over your pelvis.
- If your chair has armrests, use them.
Even with proper ergonomic position, do not stay still for too long. Periodically, take a breathing break. Relax and take a few deep breaths, filling up your lungs with air then slowly let it out. Whether it’s sitting or standing, your body needs a break from any one position to avoid negative effects. Stretches, even when sitting, or taking short walks around your workplace or home give your body a break.
If your job requires extensive time seated, another option to consider is to use a standing desk. However, if you simply move from seated bad posture to standing bad posture while working, you will not get the benefit. In fact, it could actually create additional problems.
Instead, Alan Hedge, PhD, ergonomics professor at Cornell University, suggests changing things up every half-hour.
- Sit for 20 minutes – be sure to use proper posture and ergonomics for any equipment that you use. Most find sitting to be preferred when doing computer work, but research has found that performance and concentration begin to decline after 20 minutes.
- Stand for 8 minutes – this is a great time to use that standing desk to continue your work. During this time, be sure that you are moving around some, shift your weight from side to side, etc. Be cognizant of your posture while standing. Most people start to tire and lean by around 10 minutes.
- Walk for 2 minutes – Take a quick stroll to the water cooler. Check in with a colleague on a mutual project. Go get those staples you need from the supply closet. Or simply walk a lap around the room. This gives your body a break from being in 1 position as well as increases blood flow (which also increases brain power!)
One of the basics of good posture is to have adequate strength and stability of the body’s core muscles. Sylvester Stallone, famous actor, film-maker and body-builder, has been quoted as saying, “People don’t realize that when they ‘throw out’ their back, it’s often because of weak abs. These muscles are essential for lower-back strength and good posture.”
Core-strengthening exercises can be performed easily at home with no equipment. Examples of easy at-home core exercises are squats, pushups and walking lunges (when done with good form). There are also a number of exercises you can do at home to further strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility and improve posture using only body weight. For instance, the “inch worm” is an exercise that works multiple areas of the body, where you begin in a forward bend and walk your hands out to a plank position and then walk your feet to meet your hands. Another body-weight exercise is the “elevated bridge” which specifically focuses on glute strengthening. Yoga is great exercise for those who want to improve their posture and can also be easily done at home.
Schedule an appointment with your chiropractor to have a posture evaluation. Feel free to discuss work and hobby activities that you do, and how your posture may affect those undertakings. Your doctor can suggest lifestyle modifications and exercises specific to your current posture health status, the demands of your job and your personal life. As your posture improves and your body becomes stronger, your doctor can help you reassess your posture habits and stay on track to keep you moving on a healthy path.
Using these easy tips are a great way to start improving your posture and feel stronger! If you would like to get a posture check-up and you don’t currently have a chiropractor, you can find a TCA member doctor near you on www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor.
REFERENCE: Roberts, CPT, Amy. “The 20-Minute Back Fix.” Family Circle. www.familycircle.com/health/concerns/aches-pains/the-20-minute-back-fix/?page=10
How do I sit properly? American Chiropractic Association. acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment