Proper Posture

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Do you practice proper posture when you are sitting? When you are standing? When you are lying down? What are the risks of sitting, standing or lying down incorrectly? 

Proper posture is achieved by training your body to sit, stand, walk and lie down in positions which provide minimal strain on muscles and ligaments while you are working, moving or performing weight-bearing activities. 

Improper posture leads to spinal and pelvic misalignment along with muscle imbalances and fatigue. These cause wear and tear of joint surfaces leading to arthritis, strained ligaments, spinal issues, backache and pain. These issues reduce your ability to move and enjoy daily life.

It is easy to fall into habits of improper alignment. The effects on your body don’t show up for a while. Humans aren’t good at noticing small things which gradually reduce their capabilities or make them more vulnerable to injury.

So, what can you do to actively make sure you keep proper posture and good health? 

Best Tips for Proper Posture for Sitting

How many hours a day do you spend sitting? An average adult sits for 6.5 hours per day. An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking!

Too much sitting can also lead to the shortening of your hip flexors, causing tightness and pain. In that case, you will notice that every day you spend sitting at your desk will increase your hip pain and tightness. If this is the case, make sure to add more active exercise, especially walking, running and stair climbing to your daily routine. Adding flexibility stretches such as the tensor-fascia-latae (TFL) stretch (see figure 4) is good too.

So, when you are sitting down, do you use proper technique? Improper sitting impacts your ability to breathe by as much as 30% in part because bad body position impacts your ability to breathe properly. Take a seat and analyze your posture, then read this to see how you match up. Here are some useful tips from the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. With proper posture, your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) 
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor. Do not cross your legs.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes. Get up and move around for a few minutes as needed.
  • Adjust your chair height and computer so that you can sit up close. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, face your body to your workstation.
  • When standing up from the sitting position, slide your chair back from your desk, then move your body to the front of the chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. 

Also, quite surprisingly, most car and truck seats are not designed to provide proper posture. Go take a look at your car or truck seats. Can you improve them by purchasing either back supports (lumbar rolls) or ergonomic cushions. They are not expensive and will make your life and those of your passengers more comfortable! This is a relatively easy way to keep your health!

If your work chair isn’t good for your posture, then replace it with one of these top-rated ergonomic chairs or add inexpensive lumbar rolls and cushions.

Standing Desks, Treadmill Desks, Exercise Ball Seats, Posture Correctors and Braces

There are several well-known alternative approaches to improving posture. Are they helpful? Here’s the scoop.

Some people claim standing desks are better to help you lose weight. According to Harvard Health research, sitting burns 80 calories per hour. Standing burns merely 88. Walking burns 210, so if you sit, just get up and walk around every 30 minutes!

That said, setting a timer to remind yourself to get up and walk around every thirty minutes is highly disruptive to focused work. It will reduce your efficiency and creativity. It is better to take 2-3 short breaks per hour once you complete tasks. 

To get more exercise while working, some people convert their treadmills into desks! However, treadmill desk study participants on average added only 1000 steps to their days. Walking at a faster pace was too disruptive in getting work done.

Another posture fad is the idea of sitting on an exercise ball instead of a traditional office chair. The theory is that the instability of an exercise ball requires the user to increase trunk muscle activation, thus increasing core strength, improving posture and decreasing discomfort. Another benefit ball chair supporters claim is increased calorie burn.

None of these benefits are worth the risk of injuring the lumbar area of your spine. Sitting on a ball does not guarantee proper posture or even improved core strength. Most people who sit on an exercise ball still slump, increasing the load on their lumbar region.

Of note, unless instructed by a reputable physician, do not go buy a proper posture corrector or posture braces. Although there is a lot of marketing hype, there is a lack of independent scientific-evidence on their effectiveness.

Best Tips for Proper Posture for Standing

From the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stand straight and tall with your shoulders back.
  • Keep your head level and in line with your body.
  • Pull in your abdomen.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Don’t lock your knees.
  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet. Shift your weight around if standing for long periods of time.
  • Let your hands hang naturally at your sides.

Best Tips for Lifting Heavy Objects

Based on guidance from the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Avoid lifting objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
  • Make sure you have firm footing.
  • To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
  • Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don’t jerk the object up to your body.
  • Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  • If you are lifting an object from a table, bring the object close to your body, then bend your knees and use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  • Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
  • To lower objects, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.

Also, see this helpful video on lifting heavy objects. It shows the impact on your spine.

Best Tips for Proper Posture When Sleeping or Lying Down

Adapted from guidance from the Cleveland Clinic:

  • No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position.
  • Sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back, or on your side with your knees slightly bent). 
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.
  • Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag.
  • Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable.
  • When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs over the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.

Proper Phone Posture

Avoid bending your head down and slumping your shoulders while looking down at your phone. Instead, bring your phone up closer to your eyes so you are looking straight ahead. See the Mayo Clinic’s diagram for optimal posture.

Proper Walking Technique (Gait)

See previous Keep Health article, Walk This Way!

Conclusion of Proper Posture

Thanks for reading. As your reward for improving your health, go acquire what you need to make your seating and sleeping more comfortable. Keeping a healthy body is worth it.

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