If you’re sitting down right now, chances are you are slouched over in your chair reading this. Most of us don’t even notice it, but studies show that the vast majority of us are hurting ourselves daily through our bad posture. In fact, one study found that for 90% of Americans, their normal posture is one in which their back is hunched and neck is pushed forward. Day to day, our posture may not seem like it is affecting our health, but it can actually cause long term back and neck pain, amongst many other things. In 2014 musculoskeletal issues accounted for 32% of the reasons for missing work. Bad posture can lead to a number of issues including:
- Muscle Pain
- Spinal Curvature
- Tension Headaches
- Misaligned Vertebrae
- Digestive Issues
- Constricted Blood Vessels
- Difficulty Breathing
The good news, however, is that there are many proactive steps you can take to greatly improve your posture, no matter how long you’ve been slouching.
Often times, sitting is a sure-fire way to throw off your posture. Most of us sit either slouch down in our chairs or hunch over our keyboard for a good portion of the day. One way to fix this is through bouts of standing throughout the day (using a sit-stand desk is a great way to do this). Though our posture can still be off when standing, we usually have slightly better posture standing up and it becomes more obvious when we don’t have good posture. However, if you are standing, try to avoid common habits that can often misalign your neck and back like putting your hands in your pockets or sanding with an arm on your hip. A tip for while you are sitting is to adjust your chair so your desk is at elbow height and you feet are slightly above your hips so the pressure is off your back as much as possible. Also, keeping your feet flat as opposed to crossing your legs helps keep your spine aligned.
Exercise is another way to build a better posture. Exercises like Pilates and yoga were built around strengthening your core and elongating your neck and back. Here is a list of exercises you can do for just a few minutes a day that will push you in the direction of a better posture.
A common problem for a lot of people is that they don’t realize their posture is off in the first place. An easy way to check if your posture is poor is to do the 30-second wall test found here. If you need help reminding yourself throughout the day to check your posture, pick a unique color or object to associate it with. This way, every time you see that color or object it will remind you to check how you are sitting or standing.
If you do make it down the road to a better posture, the good news is that it not only improves your health, but studies show a good posture can also make you smarter and happier by boosting your memory function, energy, and confidence. It’s an easy fix that goes a long way.
- Brown, Dudley. “Experts Say Posture Matters: The Good and the Bad.” GoUpstate.com. N.p., 11 May 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.goupstate.com/article/20100511/ARTICLES/5111007?p=2&tc=ar>.
- Bushak, Lecia. “Good Posture May Make You Smarter [VIDEO].” Medical Daily. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/good-posture-and-intelligence-how-standing-straight-helps-your-memory-and-brain-327666>.
- Goldschmidt, Vivian. “Do This 30 Seconds Test To Check Your Posture.” Do This 30 Seconds Test To Check Your Posture. N.p., 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://saveourbones.com/do-this-30-seconds-test-to-check-your-posture/>.
- Nall, Rachel. “Health Problems From Bad Posture.” Livestrong. Livestrong, 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/437366-health-problems-from-bad-posture/>.
- “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work, 2014.” Bureau of Labor Statistics (n.d.): n. pag. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf>.
- Ratini, Melinda. “Exercises to Improve Your Posture.” WebMD. WebMD, 01 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/better-posture-exercises>.