Human beings as a species sit more than we ever have in history. So many of our daily tasks now allow us to stay in one sedentary position for hours at a time or even over the course of an entire day. However, this ongoing inactivity can have negative effects on our health. Our bodies are meant to move and remain in consistent, healthy positions that keep our bones and muscles in good shape. Many back and limb conditions that people struggle with are negatively affected by such behaviors, which is why, if you want to help your bones and muscles stay as healthy as possible, it’s a good idea to maintain good posture and ergonomic positions as best you can.
What Are Posture and Ergonomics?
Posture is the way that you hold your body at any given moment, whether sitting, standing, or being active. You could be slouched over, with your head and shoulders bent down and your spine out of alignment. You could be standing straight with your head up, your shoulders up and back, and your spine in proper alignment. Or you could be twisting your body to look at things or get into a more comfortable (at the moment) position. The important thing to remember is that posture affects the health of your spine, which in turn affects the health of the rest of your body. If your spine is turned, bent, or twisted in a particular direction for an extended period of time, the rest of your body may begin to experience pain and discomfort. The position of your limbs and head can also affect how straight and healthy your spine is able to be at any given time.
Ergonomics is a science dedicated to studying human posture and the ways that we sit and move around that are the most healthy for our bodies. Ergonomic chairs and desks are designed to put our daily tools in the best positions possible for us to look at, reach, and use without consistently moving our bodies in unhealthy ways. Ergonomics is also used in sports equipment to help people who are being active use proper posture and form when exercising so they don’t risk injury.
Why Does Posture Matter?
More individuals than ever are experiencing back, neck, shoulder, and limb aches, and at much younger ages than ever before. Bad posture is not the only reason for these issues, but it is often a contributing factor. Using good posture will help you keep important muscles active and strong, which will in turn reduce the amounts of aches and pains you experience. In addition, bad posture can contribute to the development of longer-term health issues like:
- Poor circulation
- Digestive problems
- Teeth grinding and jaw pain
- Reduced lung function
What Is Proper Posture?
Proper posture can be hard to explain because it tends to involve a lot of specific bodily positions. However, these positions throughout the body should be noted, and they often work together in such a way that over time, they will become second nature:
- Chin parallel to the floor
- Shoulders even (you can roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help make this happen)
- Neutral spine (no flexing or arching to over- or underemphasize the curve in your lower back)
- Arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
- Abdominal muscles braced
- Hips even
- Knees even and pointing straight ahead
- Body weight distributed evenly on both feet.
When sitting, you should do your best to not slouch or twist your body over an extended period of time. This may include bending over to look at a computer, holding your face or chin in your hand, twisting your body to look at something else for an extended period of time, or sitting low in your seat with your buttocks at the edge of the chair rather than at the back. Our muscles easily get tired of being inactive, but feeling restless may mean that you just need to adjust your body into a different position. When standing, avoid slouching over with your head and neck bent down and your shoulders hunched. Putting your hands in your pockets often results in bad posture without you realizing it. Keep your head and neck up, your back in a comfortable, slightly curved position, and your knees slightly bent.
If you sit often for work or entertainment, try to make your chair and/or desk setup as ergonomic as possible. This means:
- Keeping your back, neck, and head straight and upright, with your shoulders up and back.
- Your feet should stay flat on the ground or propped up and flat against a footstool, with your knees ideally positioned at the same level as your hips or a little higher.
- Assisting your back with staying straight by using a high-backed chair with a neck pillow and a lumbar (lower back support) cushion.
- Any computer screens should be positioned at eye level or tilted in such a way that it’s easy to see them without bending your head down much.
- Avoiding positioning keyboards, mouses, pens and paper in a way that forces your shoulders down or up, or causes strain to the wrists.
- Standing up at regular intervals during the day to stretch and improve circulation.
These positional choices will help your circulation and muscles stay healthy and active even as you sit. Proper postural positions can be tiring, but over time, they’ll become second nature as you strengthen your muscles and skeletal structure.
There are many exercises that you can do to improve posture or stay active. In some cases, simple stretching exercises can help, as can calisthenics (bodyweight exercises). Some of these include:
- Hip bridges (lying down with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground, and slowly raising and lowering your pelvis into and out of a straight line with your back and legs)
- Hip flexor stretches
- Rolling your spine while lying on your back with a firm, rolling cushion.
- Raise and lower your arms up and down around your head (many yoga techniques use this exercise).
Other Posture Positions to Practice
Posture is about more than sitting and standing. It’s also about transitioning between them properly. For instance, when lifting heavy objects like boxes, use the strength and support of your legs rather than relying on your back to straighten you up. Also, if you’re standing up from a chair, try using the movement of your hips and legs rather than your back.
Contact Us for Assistance!
If you have muscular issues or pain—or a family history of them—we’d love to talk to you more about how you can prevent these issues from developing or getting worse. From there, they can help you stay as physically fit as possible. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!