It can have serious ill effects on your health, and yet almost all of us have succumbed to it: poor posture.
Bad posture can lead to a higher risk of arthritis, faster joint deterioration, and decreased lung capacity. Those who sit at a desk and on a computer all day—a.k.a. most of us—are particularly at risk, since your head is tilted, you’re leaning over, and you’re sitting, which strains your head and back muscles. Bad posture can also impair your sleeping patterns, your ability to exercise healthily, and your mood.
“Everything comes from your spinal column,” says Sheila Amon, a chiropractor in Kensington who has more than 29 years of experience. “You get fatigued because your muscles are holding you up in the wrong posture.”
Here are Amon’s tips for keeping your posture aligned throughout the workday—even while at a desk.
1. Replace your office chair with an exercise ball.
It might sound a little silly, but it works wonders, says Amon. Sitting on a ball requires a tight core and straight posture. If using one, be sure to avoid sitting “Buddha style” with your thighs spread out. Instead, make sure both knees are directly in front of you, and keep the ball from moving by tightening your stomach muscles.
2. Perform a few simple exercises at your desk throughout the day.
Amon recommends doing the “chicken wing,” which involves putting your arms parallel to the floor and doing a rowing movement while squeezing your shoulder blades. “The turkey” is another suggested exercise—jut your head forward, keeping your jaw parallel to the floor, and then bring your head back. This exercise “re-educates and strengthens the neck and upper back muscles to proper posture,” Amon explains. A third exercise to open up your chest cavity is to bring your arms behind your back, grab one wrist, squeeze your shoulder blades, and then move your arms away from your back.
3. Make sure your desk is set up properly.
Place your monitor at eye level to align your head with your shoulders, and adjust your chin so it’s parallel to the floor. Keep your knees at hip height and a 90-degree angle to your thighs, and both your feet on the ground. Place your mouse close to you to avoid problems in your shoulders, wrist, and neck. If you use a standing desk, elevate one foot about six inches, using a phone book or a box, to take pressure off your lower back.
4. Get up every 45 to 60 minutes.
Whether it’s to step outside, walk down to a colleague’s office, or make a quick trip to the water fountain, it’s a good idea to take a break from sitting. Keep Amon’s analogy in mind: “The body is 80 percent water. Moving water is healthy water; we’re not stagnant water with mosquitos running all over it.”
5. Practice confidence.
When we feel good about ourselves, we open up our chests, sit up straighter, and breathe more deeply, Amon says. To keep these practices top of mind, she recommends using an egg timer, an alarm, or sticky notes. She also suggests putting reminders in other places, such as on the refrigerator door and TV remote, to prompt yourself to sit up, even after you’ve clocked out for the day.