Mom was right to tell you to stop slouching and sit up straight. Not only does good posture make you look taller and more confident, it also increases energy, improves breathing and keeps your back pain free. Good posture ensures that you’re placing the least amount of strain on muscles and tendons. Whether sitting in front of the computer, standing, walking or lifting, always practice good posture.
1. Standing. Keep your feet a comfortable distance apart, typically no more than the breadth of your shoulders with equal weight distributed on each leg. Imagine a vertical line drawn from the center of your head through your shoulders and down to your pelvis. This is your perfect standing posture. If your job requires you to stand for prolonged periods of time, consider using a foot rest to ease strain. If you need additional back support, steady yourself with a table or countertop, remembering to keep your head raised and spine straight. Individuals standing in the same spot all day should use a rubber mat on the floor to improve comfort.
2. Walking. Notice how people walk and you’ll see that many of us lean forward, creating stress on the back. Walk without tensing neck muscles, while keeping your pelvis straight and head level. With good posture, your head should almost feel weightless. Avoid flat-footed, “stomping,” but instead land softly on the heel, transferring weight onto the ball of the foot and finally the toes. Use purses, bags and backpacks designed to minimize back strain.
3. Sitting. With so many of us sitting at a desk all day, it’s natural to get tired and start slouching without even noticing it. To counter that, take full advantage of the chair’s features with your buttocks pushed all the way to the back of the seat. Once your pelvis supports your weight, you’ll notice how much easier it is to maintain good posture. Your knees should bend at a right angle and be about the same level as your hips. Use a small foot rest under your feet to achieve proper position if needed. Avoid unbalanced postures such as crossing legs unevenly, leaning to one side, hunching the shoulders or tilting the head. Give your shoulders and back muscles a break by using the arm rests.
4. Lifting. Incorrect lifting can contribute to severe, long-term debilitation. With that in mind, always plan before you lift. Keep objects close to your body rather than carried with outstretched arms. Even with light objects, maintain a straight back and use knee-bending actions not back-bending actions. Tighten your abdominal muscles for extra support. If lifting is part of your regular daily routine, invest in a back support or other related equipment.
5. Working at the Computer. In addition to practicing good sitting posture as previously discussed, working at a computer requires you to keep your arms and wrists aligned as well. Unnecessary strain is placed on the spine unless your chair, keyboard, mouse, and computer screen are all correctly positioned.
Place your monitor away from glare and at a distance of about an arm’s length when seated comfortably in front of it. Position the screen to your natural, resting eye position and avoid tilting your head forward. Use a book or stand to raise it if needed. Adjust your monitor’s brightness, contrast and font size to comfortable levels. When typing, keep your arms parallel to your legs with good support under your wrists. Relax your upper arms and shoulders. If possible, place your documents directly in front of you. Unfortunately, poor posture can easily become a habit, causing chronic discomfort. The good news is, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely under your control. By following the advice above you can prevent the problems associated with poor posture and stay healthy, productive, and most importantly, pain free all day long.