Eight easy tips to improve your posture
It’s been nearly a year since many of us began working from home.. And as a result, lots of us may be dealing with aches and pains thanks to less than ideal home set-ups and bad posture. So, what can we do about it?
“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Dr. Gayle P. Myers, MD, a board-certified integrative medicine physician. “In addition to increased neck and back strain, according to research from the Mayo Clinic, prolonged sitting increases risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”
We know – that sounds pretty scary. And if you have a job that requires you to use a computer, it’s pretty hard not to sit while doing that. But, there are things you can do to break up the length of time you’re sitting, and to help your posture while you are in your chair.
How to improve posture while sitting
“Make sure your computer is at eye level, and arm distance to the screen, with your back and forearms supported,” says Myers. “Your knees should be at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor.”
And though it may sound comfortable, Myers warns that using a laptop while sitting on a sofa or in bed aggravates neck and back pain.
How to counter the effects of prolonged sitting
- Break it up: Myers suggests taking five- to 10-minute breaks every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Stretch it out: “While taking slow deep breaths, gently stretch your neck to each side (ear to shoulder) and look to the left and right,” says Myers. You can also roll your shoulders forwards and back and stretch each arm across your body with gentle tension.
- Reduce “mouse hand”: “Gently roll your wrists clockwise and counter clockwise, then, with your arm outstretched, palm facing upward, with your opposite hand gently stretch fingers toward the floor, stretching the palm, wrist and forearm for 10-15 seconds,” Myers says.
- Reduce eye strain: Myers recommends looking out a window into the distance and trying to notice something new that you weren’t aware of before.
- Get your heart rate up: Myers suggests trying out the cross-crawl exercise. “Stand and march in place, touching the opposite hand to knee (left arm to right knee, right arm to left knee) for two to five minutes. This energizes your body, increasing your focus and productivity.” A more advanced version of the move is to touch your opposite hand to your foot, but whichever version you do, make it fun! Myers suggests listening to your favourite song while you do it.
Shana Schneider, creator of Fitstyle Your Life and a certified personal trainer, has a few more suggestions to keep your posture in check and support your body.
- Heads up: “Make sure your screen is at eye level and that goes for our phones, too!” says Schneider. “The more we hang our head down, the heavier it becomes and the more it strains our neck muscles. Depending on the angle, your head could weigh as much as 60 pounds! If you’re on a budget, use a stack of books to raise your monitor and remember to hold your phone at eye level, too.” If you have the option to use a standing desk, that can help, too, she adds.
- Use doorways as reminders: “Use doorways to check your posture! As you walk through a doorway, notice if your head is going through first before the rest of your body,” says Schneider. “You want to remember to keep the top of your head parallel to the ceiling, so you don’t put extra strain on your neck by letting your head hang down.”
- Roll those shoulders: Start making a habit of rolling your shoulders at the end of a Zoom or work call – three to five rolls should do it. “This helps increase circulation and support good posture,” Schneider says. “Our shoulders tend to roll forward as we work at the computer. A simple shoulder roll stretch will help get them back in a position for that good posture alignment and it feels really good!”