For those of us who spend the majority of their working hours at a keyboard, we all understand the value of good posture. Not only does it project the ideal professional look, but it improves your long-term health, your mood, and your ability to work longer and harder than before. Yet, while we all start the workday with that straight back our grandmothers would complement us on, as the day goes on, the frustrations become more present, and the desire to “just relax a little” becomes more prevalent, we quickly find ourselves slouched down to resemble Gollum more than a professional.
What can you do to ensure your posture stays around for the entire workday, boosting not only your short-term abilities, but your long-term ones? Here are five tips to see it happen:
1. Take Frequent Breaks.
The reason we feel most compelled to slouch is laziness – although there’s no need to feel bad, because we all do it. When we find ourselves bored or completing routine tasks that our brain requires little effort to do, the rest of our body naturally slides into a less attentive position, essentially activating “power save mode.” The way to prevent this is to take frequent breaks, which not only helps your mind refocus, but encourages circulation and allows your body to wake up again, returning to its proper shape.
- Walk around.
Simply sitting at your desk and surfing the internet is not enough to help your posture. On the contrary, turning your attention to even more routine tasks like browsing your social media will encourage your body to slouch even more. By taking a few moments to get up and walk around, you are allowing better circulation into your limbs, stretching out your back, and essentially hitting “reboot” on your body. This means that when you sit down again, your body has returned to the first step of the day, where it’s prepared to maintain its posture consistently.
In the same way movement from walking is helpful, stretching allows your body to work dormant muscles and pump circulation to places it was denied before. Not only will you find yourself more alert after doing a few stretching sessions, you’ll find your back naturally assumes a posture-perfect position when you sit back down. This is especially helpful if you’re unable to leave your desk, as you can stretch your arms, lean forward and stretch your back, touch your toes while sitting, and rock your torso from side to side to loosen all your muscles.
2. Have a Checklist for Your Body
Many people find it exceptionally difficult to maintain proper posture simply because they are unaware what proper posture is. Sure, it’s easy to point it out when you see it, but without the benefit of carrying a full-body mirror around – which would earn you a few looks – you may be practicing poor posture without even knowing it. Setting up a checklist to follow can allow you to shift your body into the right angle without confusion.
- Align your ears with your shoulders.
The body is meant to be perfectly straight, and that includes where the head is aligned with the shoulders. By ensuring your shoulders are in alignment with your ears, the rest of your head will assume the proper position naturally.
- Uncross your legs.
Proper posture dictates that your feet are flat on the ground, because if they are crossed, your hips are forced into a different shape, forcing your spine to curve, forcing your shoulders to shift, and suddenly your body is as straight as a crooked road. By uncrossing your legs and placing them flat on the ground, you are forcing the rest of your body to come into proper alignment.
- Align your shoulders with your hips.
In the same way ears lining up with your shoulders improves the posture of the spine, ensuring your hips and shoulders are in proper alignment will force your spine to curve just the appropriate amount.
3. Have Physical Support for Your Back
While ingraining posture into a habit is important, the entire process becomes easier and more maintainable if you have something to help.
- Specialized chairs.
Chair designers understand the importance of posture for office worker, and there are many chairs available with built-in lumbar support in order to naturally encourage posture. A few minutes of sitting in a chair like this will improve your form and your mood, even without applying your posture checklist.
- Lumbar support pillow.
If buying a new chair isn’t appealing, a simple pillow could do the trick. Unfortunately, your favorite fluffy pillow might do more damage than good, bending to the shape of your back and encouraging slouching rather than preventing it. Using a specialized pillow which supports your lumbar can add support, comfort, and benefits to your health all in one.
4. Adjust Your Desk and Arm Rests.
Since your shoulders play such a vital role in posture, by ensuring that your arms are not being strained in an awkward angle, or are unsupported and therefore curving to accommodate, you will naturally see an improvement in your posture. This means selecting an office chair with raised arm support, so your hands can meet your keyboard without any strange angles, or even using a shorter desk so your shoulders needn’t hunch.
5. Practice at Home
Practice makes perfect, and even if you develop habits of good posture at work, should you discard them as soon as you get home, you’ll find it much more difficult to reassume them the next day. By practicing quality posture at home, at the office, when you’re out with your friends, or even when you’re driving, your body will naturally assume that position when the work hours come.
Posture is key for every person, but especially for those who spend their day at a keyboard. By keeping these five tips in mind, you’ll see an improvement in your productivity, mood, and health, all from straightening up a little.