How important is correct posture for overall health? Let’s just say that if eyes are windows to the soul, posture says a lot about our overall health. Correct posture aligns bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body, allowing your organs to assume their proper placement and your body to function optimally. Sit and stand with good posture and you will lose weight, build a stronger core, breathe better, improve your memory and mood, reduce your stress, and be more productive.
Unfortunately, sitting upright is oftentimes difficult, especially for people with an office job that requires them to sit at a desk for at least eight hours a day. Pinned to a chair and tasked to stare at a computer screen for so many hours at a time causes a lot of people to develop bad habits, such as slouching or hunching over. Sooner than later, a bad sitting posture turns into a bad standing and walking posture, sparking chronic neck, shoulder, and back problems from an early age.
The following exercises are great ways to improve posture and ergonomics and avoid the pitfalls of sitting and slouching at the office.
Stretch your neck. To stretch your neck correctly, start by slowly tilting your head forward and backward and then sideways to the left and right. Hold the stretch on each side for about 5 seconds. You can perform these exercises almost any time you feel tension and strain accumulating in your neck and shoulder areas. Refrain from rolling your head around your neck, as this could damage the joints in your neck.
Exercise your lower back. To relieve strain on your lower back, grab the top of one knee and pull it toward your chest. Hold this position for several seconds while keeping your lower back as straight as possible. Do the same for the other leg. For more intensity, try leaning forward while doing the stretch.
Relax forearm muscles with a squash ball. Forearm muscles are the first to get tense and painful while sitting in front of a computer for many hours. The easiest way to take the pressure off this part of your body is by rolling a squash ball around the muscles on the top of your forearm. Keep the arm you’re working the ball on straight and pointing to the floor, at about a 45-degree angle to your body.
Firm your stomach muscles. Strengthening your core is essential to maintaining a good posture at work. To do this, sit in the middle of your desk chair, holding the edge of your seat for support. Tighten your abs and lift both knees simultaneously toward your chest. Remain in this position for several seconds, then release and repeat.
Tone your legs and buttocks. There’s nothing like a deep squat to strengthen and tone the muscles in your legs and buttocks, and the office environment offers plenty of opportunities for that. Use the space in front of your desk, the break room, or even the bathroom to perform sets of 10 to 15 squats at a time. Squatting on a regular basis is not only an excellent way to obtain rock-hard muscles in your legs and buttocks, but also a way to improve blood circulation and posture without putting a strain on your back.
Improve your balance and mobility with a stability ball. Although it will take you some time to grow accustomed to it, add a stability ball as your second seat and rotate between them during your workday. Sitting on a ball makes it harder for you to slouch and engages several groups of muscles that remain at rest when sitting on a regular desk chair. You can also use it to do several mobility exercises and improve your balance and circulation.
Improve blood circulation in your arms and legs. Sitting for hours on end without moving your arms and legs will result in the tingling feeling (also known as “pins and needles”) you get when blood circulation is cut off. Prevent this uncomfortable feeling by regularly rolling your ankles and wrists in a clockwise motion for five times, then counterclockwise.
While none of these techniques is an all-encompassing solution to your bad posture, performing a combination of the above on a regular basis will yield significant benefits for your wellness and productivity. Alternative medicine therapies such as acupuncture can further support you in your endeavor of maintaining healthy posture and allowing your body’s vital energy to flow unimpeded.
However, sometimes even the most careful preventative practices cannot protect you from injuring your back and suffering disability. If the discomfort you feel in your neck or low back area doesn’t seem to go away, this is the time to seek the help of a licensed chiropractor. Through gentle corrective measures aimed at treating pain stemming from spinal misalignments or bad posture, your chiropractor will help you maintain not only a healthy posture, but also a healthy body and mind.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.