Picture the typical office working environment. There’s a desk, chair, computer, smartphone and typically a worker slumped in and over them. Poor posture isn’t only confined to the office desk however it’s also slumping around when we are driving, sitting on the couch at home, eating, standing and walking. The technology we use daily and the increased time we spend sitting, usually with poor posture, are mainly to blame (though it could be scoliosis). But it is okay, you can help reverse your poor posture with a few simple exercises and stretches (detailed below).
The side of effects of poor posture are numerous. Poor posture predisposes oneself to neck pain, headaches, low back pain, decreased performance, decreased oxygen, mental “fog”, poor digestion, low self-esteem and confidence. Slouching and sitting in slumped posture causes the head to drop forward placing additional strain on the neck and upper back. For every inch the head falls forward an additional 10lbs of pressure is added to the neck and upper back. Poor posture also caused our ligaments to creep or overstretch which can speed up spinal degeneration and arthritis.
How many of us have or continue to suffer the effects of poor posture without realizing it? Think you have good posture? Try this test: have a family member, co-worker or friend take a picture of you, without you knowing it, while working and/or relaxing at home. Look at your posture. What is it telling you? Are you slumped over your smartphone, tablet or a good book? Are you sitting upright or slouching over your computer. Are you leaning off to one side or supporting your head with you elbow propped on your desk?
The set-up of your workstation is very important in promoting proper posture. Your chair should be adjustable to allow your feet to be flat on the floor with your hips and knees at 90 degrees. Also your computer monitor or laptop screen should be eye-level to keep you from looking down. The keyboard and mouse need to be as close as possible to you to prevent you from over reaching and hunching your back.
Lastly remember that our body is meant to move. Staying in one position too long can lead to poor posture. Take breaks from prolonged sitting frequently. Need to speak to Pamela in HR, get up and go see her instead of writing an email or calling. Take the stairs when possible or go for a short walk at lunch. There are a number of ways to help improve your posture but all of them start with getting active. Get to it!
While sitting with your feet flat on the floor and your hips and knees at 90 degrees pull your chest up and your shoulders back. Don’t over contract your muscles and use just enough muscle contraction to pull yourself into a neutral position. Lightly brace your abdomen and continuing breathing. Hold this position for 1 minute and perform multiple times per day. The more you practice the more natural it will become for you to sit upright.
Pec Stretch/Doorway Stretch
This stretch can be done with both arms at the same time or one arm at a time. Remember not to stare down at the floor during this stretch and keep your eyes on the horizon. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Bring your hands behind your back, press your palms together, sit up tall and hold for 5–10 seconds.
Sit up tall and drop your right ear down towards your right shoulder (you don’t have to touch it!) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side.
Drop your chin down towards your chest and GENTLY roll your head from side to side.
Reach and Bend
Extend your right arm over your head and reach out as far as you can to the left and gently bend over. Hold for a few seconds and do it the other way.
Wake up those lazy glutes! Simply squeeze your buttock muscles together, holding for a breath, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
From your chair, stand up then sit back down, repeat 10 times.