During a typical work day, for example, if your job is in an office setting and you spend countless hours seated while squinting at a computer screen, most of us unknowingly experience poor posture. What exactly does that look like? Well, incorrect posture manifests when we slouch, with our chin pointed down, shoulders and upper back rounded forward, and our spines scrunched. As a result, there are many undesirable physical, social and even emotional outcomes that can result from using poor posture.
To illustrate, bad posture adversely affects your body’s breathing, for one, which means less oxygen intake and flow getting to your vital organs. Eventually, this will make you feel fatigued, and then even your appearance will suffer. Studies have also determined that slouching can exacerbate the onset and severity of back pain, especially when you already have an underlying risk factor for that condition, for example, spine damage caused by a serious car accident in the past.
And, slouching people simply don’t come across as smart, self-confident and successful when compared to peers that use good posture. Stress, which we all experience at some point at our jobs, can also be aggravated by bad posture, which leads to even tighter neck and back muscles. These combined factors, of course, can eventually have a negative influence upon your overall job performance, mitigated partially by how others perceive you and your abilities.
Many Methods Exist to Improve Poor Posture
The good news is that poor posture is not permanent and is fairly easy to correct. The first step is realizing that you suffer from bad posture, which most all of us do during a typical workday. In fact, studies have found that we sit slouched and hunched over up to 66% of the time while tasking away at our work stations, or on our personal devices! And, that quite honestly is not a good recipe for our body’s overall physical and mental well-being.
So, sitting or standing up straight, with your shoulders back, chin up and chest out can most assuredly do wonders for one’s health. But more on the “technical” aspects of correct posture, and what it looks like, later. In the meantime, let’s take a peek at a few quick “fixes” to help you to more effectively arrive at a place of using proper posture throughout the day, especially when you are subjected to prolonged hours of sitting at your workplace.
Sit Up Straight and You’ll Feel Great
Sitting upright in a chair is one way to improve your posture, and this means keeping your shoulders back, and your spine aligned in its natural position, with your feet planted firmly on the floor. When you do this, it unleashes a number of positive physiological effects upon your body;
- Enhanced oxygen intake to your lungs. When we breathe properly, more oxygen is then transported by our body’s circulatory system to sore or injured tissues, including in your back. Also, increased blood oxygen saturation stimulates the release of good hormones into your system, including testosterone and cortisol.
- Feeling more self-confident and assured. As testosterone and cortisol are introduced into your body, you will start experiencing a more confident and successful attitude, which will no doubt carry over to your work and social activities.
- Relieving stress especially in your back. Keeping your spine in an upright position takes away added pressure from your neck and back muscles and, as a result, reduces stress physically and mentally, as well. Your mind will thank you as it enjoys a renewed and refreshed feeling.
A proper sitting posture requires your feet to be flat on the floor, with your body’s weight centered in your chair, and your knees slightly elevated as opposed to below the seat. When viewing a computer screen, the monitor should be about an arm’s length away from you, with the top of the screen at eye level. All in all, sitting up straight, and making a habit of doing so, works wonders in improving your daily posture. In the end, remember to sit up straight and you’ll feel great!
Stretch Your Way to Better Posture
Have you ever noticed that when a dog gets up from a nap they immediately stretch their legs, back and neck muscles out? When we humans sit all scrunched up for long periods of time, our muscles get tight too. Done repeatedly, this leads to tissue fatigue and possibly injury, typically to our neck and back areas. Posture experts from the Mayo Clinic recommend stretching out your back, legs and arms periodically during an average workday, and even first thing in the morning before heading off to your job. There are a number of good muscle stretching exercises available online, especially for tight neck and back muscles; ones that only take a few minutes of your valuable time to do.
Stretching also strengthens your core muscle groups, which we will cover more in a moment, thereby further enhancing one’s posture. Stretching basically reminds you how your body is designed to be positioned, and what exactly that feels like. Oh, and another good thing about stretching regularly is that your flexibility will improve, which helps your body’s muscles to stay aligned and “balanced” properly. In a nutshell, just remember to stretch your way to success, as it pertains to better posture, and your job performance will benefit too!
Build Your Core and Show Bad Posture the Door
It was just pointed out above that your body’s core muscles are important as you work your way into a good posture mindset each and every day, and particularly when sitting down. Our core muscle groups can be found in our body’s trunk and back regions. In fact, positioned around just your spine alone there exist 120 muscles that function to support and naturally align your backbone. Conversely, that also equates to a lot of potential tissue areas that can get stressed and achy when you use poor posture.
On the flip side, all those muscles can be strengthened, and put to work in your favor as a way to keep your back straight and spine aligned upright; all in an effort to permanently improve you posture and overall health. Having made that point, there are numerous core muscle building activities out there, most of which are fun to participate in. Here are a few:
- Aqua therapy including water aerobics and swimming
- Stretching exercises
- Running or walking 3 to 4X per week for 20 minutes or more
- Yoga and Pilates
When done on a regular basis, these will not only build up your core muscle groups, but also provide other beneficial outcomes for your general health. Those encompass increased blood circulation and the supply of vital nutrients to your body’s cells, and the flow of natural painkillers like serotonin and endorphins, which are useful if you are currently feeling some aches and pains. And, these forms of exercise will also work to reduce your stress levels. In closing, get to the “core” of your poor posture habits, and replace them with some good ones along the way!
Visualize What Good Posture Looks Like and it will Come
We, humans, are visual creatures and need to see what positive outcomes look like to assess and validate progress. Good posture is no exception to this rule, so take time to picture how you want your newfound posture and attitude to appear as you travel down-the-road to a more improved and healthier you!
One way to do this is to stand in front of a full-length mirror and evaluate your posture as it normally appears. Turn from side-to-side and analyze what you see. Ideally, do the same while seated as you routinely would be during an average work day. Look for some of the negative postural characteristics we exposed earlier, such as rounded shoulders, chin pointed down, and your chest hunched forward. When standing, your head should ideally be up, chin out, shoulders back, and with your chest also up and out.
Check out your hand positioning when they’re at your sides. Good posture is indicated by your palms facing your thighs with the thumbs pointed forward. If the thumbs are in the opposite direction, you probably slouch quite a bit without even realizing it. As you implement some of the other posture-correcting practices covered earlier, periodically look at your posture in a mirror, and mentally note improvements along the way. In the end, visualize what success looks like as your posture positively changes, and it will come!
The Lumo Lift Posture Coach can also “See” Your Posture
It was pointed out above that positive posture outcomes can be visualized in a mirror. Well, at Lumo, we’ve also developed an amazing technology that will allow you to “see” your posture, even while you are busy at work, or even fast asleep! Named the Lumo Lift Posture Coach, it uses cutting-edge posture monitoring software to collect your body’s data throughout the day, or even at night, with a discrete, lapel pin-sized sensor. The sensor then collects and stores your posture’s information, while transmitting the results to a downloadable app for any iOS or Android compatible smart device.
Later, and at your convenience, you can check out the information and make corrective changes to your posture throughout the day. Oh, and the Lumo Lift Posture Coach also will alert you, with a gentle vibration felt through the wearable sensor, when you are slouching or otherwise using poor posture. It’s just one of the ways that the folks at Lumo are doing their part to make the world a more “posture-healthy” place, one person at a time!