Make a mental checklist:
How often do you do the following ‘activities’?
- Drive for extended periods
- Sit at a desk
- Use a computer
- Stare at your phone (or even continue starting at it as you walk)
- Do seated exercises
- Cuddle up on the couch to watch a movie
Chances are that you spend a majority of your time sitting and stationary, unless your work is very active. Not only can sitting lead to weight gain, it can harm our posture and alignment, leading to bone, joint and muscles problems. The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers notes that a key potential stressors on the spine is sitting, with up to “30 – 40% more stress on the disc when in a seated position”. Reducing some of our time sitting can be helpful to our posture, but what else we can do to counteract our bad habits?
Let’s begin by examining what defines ‘good posture’:
A definition of posture is highlighted in NCCPT training material as, “the position of the limbs or the carriage of the body as a whole.” Additionally the NCCPT further describes posture as, “the relative arrangement of the parts of the body. Good posture is that state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude (erect, lying, squatting, stooping, sitting) in which these structures are working or resting.” More on the technical aspects of posture can be found on their blog here.
How can exercise & yoga help?
We can use targeted exercises and yoga postures to align our body, build strength, enhance body awareness and improve overall posture. It is common for upper back muscles to become stretched and weak from office work. When our posture is misaligned we may experience regular sensations of muscle tightness around the neck and shoulders, as well as pain in the lower back.
Foundational and core exercises will help build the strength needed to support your skeletal system and allow it to return to natural alignment. Be aware that this process can take time and is made easier with mental awareness.
Check in throughout the day with yourself:
- Is your office set up ergonomically?
- When standing in line, so you shift weight to one foot or hip?
- Do you take full, deep breaths?
- How often do you take a break from your computer or phone to stretch?
- Are your shoes supporting your foot arch?
Get active! Incorporate these posture strengthening additions to your fitness and yoga routine:
Planks: strengthens core, gluteus maximus and shoulders.
Back Extensions/Locus Pose: assists with lower back stability.
Seated Twists: open the chest and develops the core.
Standing Balances: teaches us to stand tall and ground down through the feet.
Starting with awareness of our daily posture and habits, alongside adding corrective exercises will benefit your overall wellbeing tremendously. The National Council for Certified Professional Trainers makes sure that it’s fitness professionals are aware of the importance of posture and you should be aware too! “Postural dysfunction is most often muscular but can become structural if left unmanaged. During the first stages of faulty posture the ligamentous structural components (ligaments and joint capsules) are shortened or lengthened. However, if left unchecked for an extended period, a structural dysfunction will result, which can be far more difficult to correct.” Stay active and make sure slouching doesn’t lead to long-term negative impacts on your health. Small changes today will reinforce good posture well into the future.