Posture isn’t just something for high-society ladies to worry about. Our posture affects the health of our entire body, no matter who you are. While you don’t have to be able to hold a book on your head like a scene from an Audrey Hepburn movie, you should break these 5 bad habits now to keep from getting chronic aches and pains as you age.
1. Not stretching all day
If you’re reading this and you haven’t stretched yet today, stand up right now, reach for the ceiling, and touch your toes! Don’t read any further until you’ve done it!
Did you stretch? Good! When we don’t stretch, our muscles and joints get tight and stiff, which makes movement painful. If you make stretching a regular habit, you’ll start to feel less achy and more energized throughout the day.
2. Slouching in your chair
Sliding down in your seat or leaning to either side of your chair during the day can put strain on your entire body. While it might feel relaxing at first, joints and tendons get strained in odd ways when you work for long periods of time in a slouched position. Sitting up straight might feel odd at first because you have to engage your core muscles, but it will get easier the more you do it. A chair with good lumbar support will encourage sitting up straight, too. If you are sliding down in your chair because your feet don’t reach the ground, try a footstool or small box to make sure your feet are flat on a surface and knees are at a 90-degree angle.
3. Rounding your shoulders
It might be easy to miss the effects of rounded shoulders on your aches and pains, but correcting it makes a big difference in your posture, and even your confidence! Rounding your shoulders often makes for a slumped over appearance. Look in a mirror. Do the backs of your hands face the mirror? You might be rounding your shoulders, which causes you to have a closed-in chest and weak upper back. Correct this by drawing your shoulders in a circular motion, first going forward, then up to your ears, then towards your back. Ideally, your shoulders should stay in line with your ears throughout the day, not in front of them.
4. Holding your neck in a bent position
Have you ever gotten a pain in your neck from looking at your phone too long? This condition, becoming known as “text neck,” comes from tilting our chins down for too long. You can get the same pain in your neck whether you tilt your chin up or down for long periods of time. Drivers, for example, often tilt their chins up as they navigate, and our chins are often tilted upwards when we sit in a slouched-forward position. To avoid this in the office, make sure your computer monitor is at a level where you don’t have to tilt your head up or down. Raise your chair up if you find yourself looking up for too long, or raise your monitor or laptop on a stand to keep it at a level where you can hold your head straight. Your neck will thank you!
5. Crossing your legs
We often cross our legs in different ways to change up our posture, but holding our legs in a crossed position for long periods of time can affect several parts of our body. For both men and women, the position itself is unnatural for our spines and may cause misalignment in our vertebrae. It can also contribute to poor blood flow in our legs, which is known to cause varicose veins and can worsen high blood pressure. The best sitting position keeps the top of your pelvis parallel to the surface you are sitting on. Tilting your pelvis in a cross-legged position also puts pressure on your hips, which will translate to pain later.
Breaking bad habits is difficult, but not as hard as living with aches and pains every day. Do you have one of these bad posture habits? Write a note that you keep on your desk to remind you not to slouch or sit in a poor position and set an alarm to go off every hour or so to stretch. Best of luck breaking these habits, you can do it!