man slumped at desk

Posture. What is it good for?

A quick experiment

Clench your fists and hold them closed for the next 10 minutes. Sounds kind of silly right? Reckon you’d last the 10 minutes? Probably not.

This is what you’re asking of yourself when you try to sit bolt upright in your chair. You’re asking your body to forcefully hold a posture that is not efficient.

There are good and bad postures but don't let them rule your life

The key here is, you don’t have to obtain a perfect posture all the time to be healthy.

Think about it like this.

“Good” postures are your fruits and vegetables. These is where you should spend most of your time.

“Good” postures are mostly based on movement:

  • walking
  • standing up and sitting down
  • sitting for a reasonable period of time*

* sitting for 30-60mins is ok, you should be able to watch an episode of Game of Thrones without having to get up. But, get up while the credits are on… Get yourself a drink of water, whatever. Standing up and sitting back down again is enough to break the position. Do it a couple of times for greater effect.

“Bad Postures” are your sometimes foods. They’re not inherently bad but spending too much time in them is not super ideal.

“Bad” postures usually involve one of the following:

  • sustained postures
  • awkward postures
  • repetitive postures (e.g. repetitive lifting)

The longer you spend in a specific posture, the more likely your body is going to fatigue in that position and become uncomfortable. If you’re in an awkward posture for work or not work (hesitant to write “pleasure” here), try to minimise this as best you can. Your body won’t like these especially if you have to do something forceful, say, leaning awkwardly and using a screwdriver. Tradies know what I mean.

Easy fix: Break up your sustained and awkward positions.

“Your best position is your next position”
(It rhymes so you know it’s true)

There is an optimal posture but isn't that big of a deal

From a biomechanics perspective (how your body works) there is an ideal posture. It’s the so called neutral posture. This is where the joints have the best stability and muscles are in their best positions to work.

It’s not practical to chase this posture all day. HOWEVER, moving in and out of it can be greatly beneficial (see the exercise below).

The more sage advice is:

  1. Break up your sustained postures with some movement.
  2. Do some exercise. Anything. Go for a walk, do a pilates class, bust out some pushups before you sit down to work in the morning.

If you’re still reading, you’ll notice a theme here. It’s movement. The theme is movement.

A quick postural reset exercise

This is money. It’s so easy that even I do it.

The best part is, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing in order to do it.

This is great for people that sit at a desk all day. In these positions you’ll often find yourself tiring through the neck and the back (read: sore/tight/uncomfortable). Slumping isn’t bad but it’s a good idea to consciously get out of the slump periodically.

How to do it:

  1. Place one hand around the top of your hip bone and one hand on your lower back
  2. Encourage yourself to roll forwards on your sit bones and increase the arch in your lower back
  3. Now Imagine a piece of string coming out the top of your head and pulling you up towards the ceiling
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and release

What you should feel:

  1. Growing taller through the spine
  2. Rib cage traveling slightly forwards over your pelvis
  3. Chin and neck coming back in towards your neck

Prescription: Hold for 30 seconds every hour.

Bonus points: Do this every half hour or whenever you begin to feel uncomfortable.

The Exercise

Go from this…

Slumped sitting posture at desk

…To this.

Sitting posture correction position

See the difference?
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