You really want to do this, because according to Steven Weiniger, author of Stand Taller, Live Longer: An Anti-Aging Strategy, the health risks are great.
"Studies have shown that people with weak posture are more likely to have incidents of cardiovascular and pulmonary issues," he says. Part of the issue is that "when your head is pulled forward, your torso is rolling forward and your chest caves in.... You can't take a deep breath."
In fact, a study of women found that those whose heads were pushed forward (instead of correctly aligned over their torsos) were 1.4-times more likely to die than those with strong posture.
This is probably because the heart is pumping harder to get blood out of a collapsed chest, Weiniger says. Remember that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States alone.
So the risks are great, and so are the rewards. Here are a few tips to help you improve and maintain good posture at work:
1. Position your monitor correctly
Keep it higher than "normal." This angle compels you to sit up tall in order to see the screen. This is a quick win that actually does impact the position of your neck in a positive way.
2. Avoid reaching or leaning forward
If there's one cardinal rule of desk posture, it's to never reach or lean forward. For every inch your head tilts forward, your spine takes on the equivalent of an extra 10 pounds. This strains your muscles in a big way and can lead to headaches, back pain, and more.
If you use a mouse, bring it towards you so you never have to strain forward to use it. Same goes for your laptop.
3. Keep both feet on the ground
Sitting at our desks, most of us spend a lot of our time with our feet crossed without even realizing it. This leaves you misaligned, and can (again) strain your neck and back. Switch to both feet down for proper placement.
4. Take frequent standing breaks
Even if you have excellent posture while sitting in the most ergonomic chair ever, your body simply wasn't made to be sedentary. Get up, stretch, walk around, go up and down the stairs--do whatever you can to keep moving for as much of the day as possible.
5. Consider a wearable
Because good posture is so critical to your overall health and well-being, it makes sense to do whatever you can to support it.
Consider wearable technology like posture vests to give you a boost. They gently pull your shoulders back, aligning your spine, and because they can go under clothes, you can have them on all day without anyone noticing.
The Royal Posture Copper vest costs only around $15 and even comes with copper-infused dots at key focal points to relax muscles, easing aches and pains as you go along (instead of letting them build up).
Also consider Lumo Lift, a small device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet. When you slouch, it vibrates, alerting you to adjust your posture. This is particularly helpful if you tend to get caught up with work and forget to sit up straight.
6. Sleep in the right position
While not technically something you can do at your desk (unless your boss is extremely cool), how you sleep affects your waking posture, so you want to practice correct alignment here, too.
A firmer mattress is better for back support, and the ideal position is sleeping on either your back, because it helps keep your shoulders straight, or your side. If you do sleep on your side, place a small pillow between your knees to properly align your spine.
The worst sleep position is on your stomach. If this is you, try hard to graduate to at least sleeping on your side.
If at first these kinds of corrections feel uncomfortable, just do them for a few minutes at a time while your body adjusts. When it comes to your posture, little changes make a big difference.
And keep your eyes on the prize: setting yourself up for a healthy, long-lasting spine, nervous system, brain, and life.