By Eliza Crisp, contributing blogger.
Quick pop quiz: as you are reading this article, what does your body feel like? Are your shoulders hunched? Is your neck pitched forward over a screen? Do your abs feel soft, and your hips pushed back? Does your lower back have a subtle ache?
We’re willing to bet that you inwardly cringed at this description, and you aren’t alone! The Arthritis Disease Centre estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of Americans will be troubled of back pain during their lives, and guess what the most common contributor is? You’ve got it: bad posture. Ouch!
These statistics might seem a little dark, but luckily you can help remedy bad posture without signing up to a lifetime of pain killers and remedial massage. In fact, you can do something right now to help correct your shaky alignment.
If you work in an office environment, you probably spend an average 10 hours per day sitting. Scary stuff, right? So let’s start small, and look at how you can master good posture from your work chair.
Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back, and lengthen your spine. Shuffle so that your butt touches the back of the chair. Feel the weight distribution on your hips; is it even? Finally, make sure your knees are both at right angles (don’t cross your legs!), and check that your feet are both flat on the floor. Try to make sure you stand up and move every 30 minutes (this is an excellent chance to refill your water bottle!).
STRETCHES AND EXERCISES
You have probably busted out these moves in a yoga or pilates class before, so let’s think about incorporating some into your daily routine.
Everyone’s favorite! Sit on your shin bones, touch your toes together, let your knees and hips fall naturally apart, and bend from your waist. Stretch your hands forward, and breathe deeply into your ribs.
Downward Facing Dog:
You definitely know this one. Lie flat on the floor, face down, then bend your knees to raise your butt towards the ceiling. Your body should look like an A-frame, and your ears should be in line with your upper arms.
Down on your hands and knees, make sure your weight is even. Inhale as you look up, and drop your abs to the ground, then reverse the movement as you exhale. The spinal articulation makes this stretch feel particularly grounding.
This is your go-to if you have been hunched over that spreadsheet for hours. Lie facedown on the floor, then bend your arms so your palms can sit flat next to your shoulders. Gently pull your shoulders down and back, and engage your abs as you peel your chest off the floor. Also great for your hip flexors.
Pro tip: we love doing stretches after a warm bath or shower, when our muscles are supple. It’s a great addition to your nightly routine, to help aid with optimal sleep hygiene.
STRAIGHTEN YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Once you have your sitting posture sorted, and you are being diligent with daily stretches, we can look at your environment. Chances are, your desk and chair height are probably not the best configuration. Apartment Therapy did a great article on the ideal height for posture comfort. Ideally, when you stand up facing your chair, the top of the cushion should hit just below your kneecap. Simple! Other people prefer to invest in a standing desk, or even a treadmill desk, which has been claimed to boost work productivity.
Talking about your work desk, let’s look at that massive tote bag you have balanced beside you. Between your water bottle, your laptop, and your workout gear, it probably weighs more than you think. Try to be conscious of how much you are lugging around on a daily basis, because the American Chiropractic Association recommends that our purses only weigh 10 percent of your body weight. Ideally, we should be using a bag with thicker straps, and alternating which side we carry it on.
They might seem like minor tweaks, but by considering how we sit, how we stretch, and how we interact with our work environment, good posture goals are within everyone’s reach.