The modern world conspires to make us slouch. We hunch our shoulders to use our phones. We droop in chairs while we labor at desks. We sprawl on sofas to watch TV.
Poor posture leads to spinal weakness, back and neck pain and even bad digestion. It isn’t easy to correct your posture in today’s world, but here are five steps to put you on the path to better body position and better health.
1. Stand Up Straight
You’ve heard this before, and you know you should, but that doesn’t make it easy. Ideally, if you look at yourself side-view in a mirror, your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders should line up. If they don’t, try this: build your posture from your feet up, starting with the feet pointed straight, hip-width apart. Align your knees over your ankles the best you can. Continue through your hips and shoulders as you’re able.
Some people say to pull your shoulders back. Instead, tighten your abdominal muscles, pulling up through your groin, and extend your back, and your shoulders will go back naturally.
2. Practice Healthy Sitting
For desk workers, sitting is unavoidable. Sit without leaning forward or to one side. Keep your feet flat on the floor, pointed forward, hip-width apart. Every few minutes, roll your hips forward and straighten your back. Describe a nice curve in your lumbar region. If you wear glasses, they should correct so that you comfortably read with your back straight.
Stand, stretch and walk occasionally. Consider a sitting alternative such as a knee chair or a sit-to-stand desk.
3. Practice Healthy Device Usage
Our phones may be responsible for more neck and back pain that any other modern invention. Visit any sidewalk and you’ll see people bent over as if their phones are tugging on them. Instead of bending to your phone, bring your phone to you. Look down at it by moving only your eyes and not your head. Again, the right prescription is critical for glasses-wearers.
Occasionally straighten up, extend your neck and look back overhead. You can also pivot your head and lean it left and right.
4. Be Active
Just about any exercise, from walking to dancing to sports, will improve your posture. Yoga, tai chi, Pilates and different strength and stretching exercises can work wonders. If you sit most of the day, learn some exercises you can do in your desk chair.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds work your abdominal muscles in a stressful way.
5. Remind Yourself To Straighten Up
Most people can stand or sit straight for a few minutes, but fewer can do it indefinitely. If you’re intent on a task in your chair, it’s easy to go an hour or more with slumped posture and not even notice.
Use reminders. Put a “Sit Up!” sticky note on your monitor. Set a recurring 10-minute timer on your phone or watch to beep and remind you. Be deliberate of posture as you sit down and stand up and when you go up or down stairs. Find a “posture buddy” to keep each other accountable.