When you accept a position working 9 to 5, you know you’re signing up for a life of desks, cubicles and a whole lot of awkward sitting at a computer. So how can you ensure you don’t put your body at risk?
Proper posture is vital to optimal health and happiness, according to recent research — so follow these good posture tips to ace your next physical and improve your overall life.
What is posture?
Posture refers to how you stand — it's the position in you hold your body when you're standing or sitting. And there are different types of posture.
What are the types of posture?
There are several different types of posture, beyond just healthy posture. Here are a few:
- Kyphosis — Kyphosis is "a common condition that results in forward rounding of your upper back region. Compared to natural curves which have a curvature around 20-50 degrees, kyphosis has an excess curve greater than 50 degrees," according to Brace Ability. "This causes your spine to hunch over and make you appear to be slouching or have a hunchback. Kyphosis can be seen at any age but is most commonly seen in older women after osteoporosis weakens the bones in the spine until they crack and compress. If you suffer from kyphosis, you may be experiencing back pain and stiffness."
- Flat Back — "When you have flat back syndrome the spine loses the lower curve and becomes flat," according to Brace Ability. "This causes the spine to become imbalanced and the patient tends to lean forward."
- Swayback (Lordosis) — Swayback refers to when the spine curves inward at the lower back and neck area.
- Forward Neck or Head — In this kind of posture, with a forward neck or head, the neck and/or head are in a forward position so that the head is extending out past the shoulders.
So, how do you know if your posture is correct? You can usually tell by signals from your body. Poor posture can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. And that's why it's important to correct your posture.
What are signs of bad posture?
Some signs of bad posture include:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
How can I correct my posture?
Correct your posture with these simple steps.
1. Sit up straight, with shoulders back but relaxed.
Part of achieving proper alignment is ensuring that your body is relaxed and upright. Make sure your neck and shoulders are in a neutral position. Sit up straight, with your chest up and your shoulders down and back. This position allows blood to flow more easily and oxygen to circulate more efficiently throughout the body.
2. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly.
This means that your hips are even and are taking your weight evenly. A big indicator of bad posture is when people put the majority of their weight on one side. This puts all the pressure on the muscles on one side of your body which will lead to pain and slouching. Make sure both feet are on the ground with your knees bent at roughly 90 degrees. This will ensure your body is in proper alignment. It can be hard to tell when sitting in a chair, but you’ll notice it in your hips and hip flexors after a few days when suddenly, they feel so much more open.
3. Keep your legs bent, but not crossed.
This is in part due to ensuring your weight is evenly distributed, but also because crossing your legs restricts blood flow which will most likely lead to your limbs falling asleep. Then it becomes a cycle of trying to wake up said limb while crossing the other. Remedy this by sitting in a neutral position upright with both feet planted on the ground. This will keep you spine straight and relaxed, your head upright, and your muscles from becoming oxygen deprived.
4. Get moving! Don’t sit for longer than 30 minutes to an hour at any time.
Bad posture isn’t just a result of slouching in your chair all afternoon. It comes from recurring sedentary behavior which trains your muscles into thinking they don’t need to work. This makes it even easier for your body to fall out of perfect posture. Make sure you get up and stretch out those legs, arms, and joints. Go for a walk around the office. Grab coffee. Chat with a coworker. Just get moving.
5. When sitting, make small movements with your neck, arms, and shoulders to increase blood flow.
Maybe try moving your head from side to side, or bending and unbending your knees. Massage out your fingers and hands. Do any kind of small movement that will increase blood flow and get the oxygen flowing. You don’t always have time to get up and move, but if you can at least make it a point to get in some small movements, your body will thank you.
The best thing you can do while at your desk are little exercises to get those muscles working. Maybe you can do some leg lifts or some reverse crunches. If you want to kick it up a notch, do squats or tricep dips. You might feel silly at first, but this will help strengthen your body so that it can hold proper posture for longer, and without you having to really think about it.
All it takes is a few small changes to dramatically decrease the risks involved with prolonged sedentary behavior. The hardest part is becoming more conscious of your actions. Always check in with your body. Are you hunched over? Are your shoulders tense? Is your back rounded? Are your legs crossed? Are your feet planted on the ground? When was the last time you did a lap around the office? Just asking yourself these questions every hour or so can put you on a path towards good posture and good health. After a while, it will just become second nature sitting at your desk with proper posture and alignment, and by strengthening your muscles, it will be even easier for your body to fall in line. Before you know it, all that pain in your neck and shoulders from sitting with poor posture will be gone.