Beyond the chair: Improving posture at your desk
While a well-designed ergonomic task chair encourages you to use good posture while you sit, you will still have to do some of the work. Maintaining correct posture can help prevent back aches and keep your blood flowing, which in turn promotes focus. This is especially important for those who sit all day at work. So whether you go into the office daily or work from home, use these visualizations and tips to improve your posture (with or without an ergonomic chair) while you're at a desk:
Tuck your shoulder blades in your back pockets
Rounding your back forward puts your neck in an awkward position and gives you a slouching posture. Most people assume this position because they release the muscles between their shoulder blades. By engaging those muscles, you naturally pull yourself up, straighten your spine and puff your chest out, which also keeps your neck in a comfortable position.
However, reminding yourself to pull your shoulder blades back could cause you to overcompensate. So, try this visualization exercise. Imagine lifting your shoulder blades, then settling them in your back pockets. This pulls the blades down but also engages those muscles. It also helps you lift your chin to straighten your neck.
You can do this mental exercise while seated or standing. Plus, it's quick, allowing you to check on your posture throughout the day.
Uncross your legs
Crossing your legs cuts off circulation and puts your hips out of alignment, which can lead to back, knee and hip problems. When you've been sitting in the same position all day, it's easy to slip into bad habits, so be mindful. Whenever you notice your legs are crossed, uncross them. Ideally, you should plant your feet on the ground, keeping your knees at 90-degree angles. This promotes circulation and keeps your hips aligned.
If you can't help crossing something, cross your ankles. While still not ideal, this doesn't tip your hips as drastically.
Lengthen your spine
When you tell yourself to "sit up straight," you may overcompensate and bend your spine in the other direction. Instead, when you feel the need to slouch, say to yourself "no" or "don't slouch." Try these visualizations for lengthening and straightening your spine:
- Picture a tiny hat on top of your head. Then visualize another on top of that. Keep imagining more hats piling on top, which naturally makes you sit up straighter.
- Imagine you're a lab skeleton. The cord that holds you is attached to the crown of your head.
- Breathe in, and as you do, imagine bubbles filling the spaces between your vertebrae. Breathe out. Every time you inhale, see the bubbles getting larger.
These simple visualizations are easy to do while sitting at your desk. Not only can they help you straighten your spine, they also give you a break from work.
Get up often
Sitting for too long isn't good for your body, even if you have perfect posture. Build breaks into your work day to get up and move. This could be as simple as walking a lap around the office or as long as going for a walk outside. Schedule these reprieves into your day to ensure you do them – it's difficult to walk away from work when you're driven or focused.
"You can stretch right at your desk."
Do stretches at work
You can stretch right at your desk or during one of your standing breaks. Either way, stretch your chest and other muscles on the front of your body, as these tend to relax when you slump forward. Then, stretch the muscles in your back.
Just for good measure, warm up your wrists to help prevent carpal tunnel.
Target your back at the gym
When you go the gym, don't skimp on back exercises. Doing things like rows will greatly improve your posture. These exercises strengthen those tiny muscles between your shoulder blades, which makes doing visualizations, like tucking your blades in your back pocket, much easier. In fact, you may not have to remind yourself as often to engage your shoulder blades if those muscles are strong.
Along with these tips, tricks and visualizations, ask your company to provide ergonomic office chairs and standing desks. Modern office furniture, such as ergonomic seats, designed to support good posture will make keeping your body healthy that much easier.