Modern life poses many challenges when it comes to maintaining proper posture. We tend to slouch while typing on computers and often assume unhealthy positions when using their smartphones. Because many of us remain "connected" from morning to night, posture challenges can plague us for most of our waking hours.
Bad posture isn't just a cosmetic issue; poor posture can lead to serious back, neck, and shoulder injuries, and, according to some studies, reduce effectiveness of breathing, cause headaches, and even alter hormone levels in the body.
I've taken a multi-prong approach to combat bad posture. While none of the mechanisms I employ is a magic pill or all-encompassing solution, each technique on its own seems to yield benefits, and the combination has, together, made a world of difference for me.
So, here are some of the steps I take to improve posture while at work:
1) Sitting on a ball. I have a nice leather chair in my office; sitting in it is by no means uncomfortable. But, over the past few years I have also added an exercise ball as a second "seat," and I rotate between the two during the "sitting" portions of my day. Sitting on the ball makes it more difficult to slouch, engages various muscle groups that remain at rest when slouching on a chair, and builds muscle. While the ball is clearly not as comfortable a seat as an executive chair, I got used to it pretty quickly. As I mentioned before, I still use my chair as well (at least for now); using a sitting-ball to improve posture does not have to be an all-or-nothing change.
2) Leveraging technology. For a couple months I have been using the Lumo Lift--a small device that attaches to my shirt with a magnet, and, if I slouch, gently vibrates to remind me to adjust my posture. The device synchronizes via Bluetooth with my phone and tracks my posture performance, as well as other health-related information such as steps walked. I have found the device quite effective at detecting anytime I slouch over a computer while sitting, and it has alerted me on many occasions when I have assumed an improper standing position as well.
3) Standing. Even when I am working on a "seated" project, I make sure to stand up frequently. In general, working while standing offers various benefits over sitting (and may be the subject of a future article), but, even for those who worked seated, standing up every 30 minutes allows "resetting of one's posture." If you don't trust yourself to stand up periodically, just set an alarm on your phone.
4) Stretching. Various stretches help improve posture. While some are better suited for gym workouts, others can be performed in seconds in a work environment while seated or during a standing break. For example, chin tucks, which help release stiff muscles in the back of one's neck that can contribute to bad posture--can easily be performed while working. (To perform a chin tuck, stretch the back of your neck by moving your chin down and in toward your neck.) There are many articles online about various stretches than can improve posture; choose stretches that most benefit your specific issues.
5) Asking for help. I have asked family members and a trusted colleague to tell me if they see me slouch. I'm not sure why people are squeamish about asking for help with this type of matter, but I would rather ask for such a favor than injure myself.