When it comes to improving our health, most of us know to consider our eating and exercise habits. However, how often do we consider our posture as a vital piece of the health puzzle? It is probably fair to say that “Sit up straight” is advice that most people have ignored for a lifetime, despite the best of intentions. In a movement-starved society, it is now more important than ever that we understand how posture impacts our health and what we can do to improve it.
Posture is how we balance our body against gravity, and it reflects how healthy we are. An effect of poor posture is a loss of postural strength, which in turn leads to a loss of height. Recent research found that in a 20 year period, older men who lost 3cm in height were 64% more likely to die than those who only lost 1 cm!(1) Therefore good posture can help you to live longer – now that seems like a pretty good reason to sit up straight! Furthermore, prolonged periods of sitting can lead to stiffness, loss of strength and an increased likelihood of experiencing pain.
So to help you to improve your posture, we’ve put together seven posture tips to get you started:
- Set up the computer screen at eye level – whilst there is no perfect position for sitting at the computer, looking down and forward puts a lot of pressure on your neck and shoulders. Correct screen position is vital for long periods of computer work.
- Get up every 30 minutes for a 1 minute movement break – the body begins to make semi-permanent structural changes after being in the same position for more than 25 minutes.
- Standing / height adjustable desks – these can help, but don’t stand for more than 20 minutes per hour – this can lead to new injuries from fatigue.
- Extend your spine – leaning forward (flexion) over your computer or steering wheel while driving folds the body and causes many problems. Lean back (or extend) 5x or more per day to prevent negative effects.
- Exercise – The average city dweller spends more than 18 hours per day sitting or recumbent. Have a walk at lunch and replace screen based leisure activities with physical challenges and fun.
- Invest in a quality chair – make sure your furniture can support your upright posture. Also, chairs with no arms allow you to pull into your desk and maintain an aligned posture with relative ease.
- Clean your desk! – reaching around junk on your desk can greatly increase static stress on shoulders and upper back.
If you require more specific information about posture or suffer back pain, you may need to seek advice from a chiropractor or other qualified musculoskeletal professional.
By Luke Stubbs
(1) Arch Intern Med. 2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2546-52. Height loss in older men: associations with total mortality and incidence of cardiovascular disease.Wannamethee SG1, Shaper AG, Lennon L, Whincup PH.