Your mom was right when she told you not to slouch. That advice will make your workday more comfortable – at least as far as your body goes.
“If you sit or stand with poor posture, your body will conform to it, and you may feel tightness and discomfort over time,” says Unum Senior Benefits Consultant Mike Booth, who has a degree in exercise physiology. “Likewise if you have proper posture, your body will respond in a healthy manner.”
Strengthening your core helps you line up right. And if you already have good posture, core exercises can strengthen muscle, which means you’re stronger and can better support your body through proper posture. You can do several exercises to improve your posture right at work.
First, check to see if all this time you’ve been sitting or standing like you should be.
When sitting, your weight should be on your “sit bones,” the two bony points under your rear end. Let your pelvis tilt forward just slightly, so that your lower back maintains its natural lumbar curve. You’ll just barely engage your abdominal muscles to keep that curve. Your shoulders should be over your hips, with your knees slightly lower than your hips. Feet are flat.
When standing, your torso stacks over your hips in almost the same way as when you sit, but with less pelvic tilt. To check, go to a wall. Your upper back, shoulders and bottom should touch it. Your feet can be several inches away. If you can slip your hand between your lower back and the wall, you’re set. One note: if you stand for long periods, it’s good to periodically lift a foot up on a small stool. That takes pressure off your lower back.
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Then try these strengtheners:
Knee-to-elbow curls: Sit in a chair with your feet flat. Bend your elbows. Lift your right knee up and across toward your left elbow, as you also reach your left elbow for your right knee. Release. Do the same with your left knee and right elbow.
Scissor kicks: This one’s super discreet. Sit in a chair, and straighten your knees. Scissor your legs ahead of you.
Desk push-ups: Stand almost one leg’s length from a desk that’s hip height (closer if the desk is taller), with your hands on it shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows, keeping them towards your sides. Lower your body. Stop when you’ve got a right angle at your elbows, then push back up.
You’ll want to do at least one of these for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Switch them up, and have fun. Don’t worry about looking weird. You can’t look any stranger than you would hunched over your desk like a tent if you’re posture isn’t good.
Journalist Mitra Malek writes about wellness, fitness and innovation. She has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at mitramalek.com.