It is now well known that the way you sit at work can markedly impact your physical health. Sitting at a conventional desk for 6 to 8+ hours a day, while using repetitive motions of typing and swiping a screen, are known to cause musculoskeletal issues, from tendonitis and bursitis, to muscle strains and pain. Fixing the desk posture problem is the premise behind hundreds of newer products from standing desks to bouncy ball chairs. All have one goal: improving your physical wellbeing at work. But what if bad posture also adversely affects your brain?
Improper or negative movement patterns require more energy and exertion. The resulting discomfort can cause constant small distractions from work-related tasks thus decreasing productivity and efficiency. "Correct posture is essential for proper alignment of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves," says Paige Daly, PT, DPT, Clinical Director of Professional Physical Therapy in Franklin Square, NY. "Proper alignment ensures an efficient musculoskeletal system, which promotes good circulation, oxygen uptake, decreased pain from musculoskeletal issues, less fatigue and even clearer thinking."
Daly notes that our pulmonary system is also adversely affected by poor alignment. "Breathing mechanics are dependent in part on the ability of the thorax and rib cage to expand during inhalation. Sitting with a constricted closed-off posture prevents the thorax from expanding, decreasing the amount of oxygen entering the lungs," she explains. The amount of oxygen saturation in the blood directly affects the ability of the body to produce energy. "Decreased oxygen will result in a lack of focus, which leads to reduced productivity," Daly notes. She adds that to make sure you have the focus, energy and mental acuity you need to be most creative, you need to look at your posture and make sure it is good.
"Proper, erect posture also has a direct correlation with power," Daly says. "According to a study published in Scientific American, expansive postures resulted in increased feelings of power and risk-taking behavior when compared with closed, constricted postures. Changing your posture can lead you to be more innovative and risk taking - unlocking creative potential that is literally stuck inside when you are hunched up."
Daly encourages employers to invest more in employee posture. "Sitting or standing properly at a work station has benefits for both the employee and the employer. For the employee, proper posture decreases pain and reduces risk of musculoskeletal injury, as it improves breathing mechanics, decreases fatigue, and decreases stress levels. For the employer, proper posture by members of their staff contributes to decreased absenteeism from pain and discomfort, improved productivity, and even has a positive affect on overall morale in the office." It seems incredible that good body mechanics can boost the creativity of your team, but the research is clear. And that's worth sitting up (straight) and taking notice of.
For those interested in changing their posture for the better, Daly does not recommend any specific products, but does suggests setting up an ergonomic workstation and consulting with a Physical Therapist or Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist.