Many of us are now working from home, which means we are more sedentary than usual - and more at-risk for neck and shoulder pain, as well as other ailments. While exercising and sticking to routines can help, improving your posture is an important but often neglected way to relieve that pain, and it can improve your mood and energy.
According to various studies and writings on posture and mood, including one published by the scientific journal Biofeedback, this is how a little posture can go a long way. Posture has been shown to:
Increase heart rate, which improves oxygen flow
Increase energy due to increased oxygen flow (which may lead to a greater desire to exercise)
Decrease neck and shoulder pain and discomfort
Reduce negative/bad moods
So…..your parents telling you to sit up and stand up straight was for all of that!? Although they may not have known these specific reasons, they had a good point.
Here are a couple of simple tips from Harvard Health on keeping and practicing good posture while sitting:
Sit upright as far back in your chair as possible, keep your feet flat on the floor, and your chin parallel to the floor. Relax your shoulders, and be aware of the curve in your lower back. You can use a rolled towel to help maintain the normal lumbar curve.
Shift positions or get up every 30 minutes to an hour. Set a timer on your work computer, for those of you working at home. Anything you’re working on can wait 1-2 minutes!
Be mindful of your posture throughout the day. You can also set timers for this at the start to get into the habit.
Try to keep reading material at eye level.
If you already have pain, you should still start practicing the information from above. In addition, when you get up every half hour to an hour, do these quick stretches and exercises:
Pec Stretch. Put both arms on the walls of a doorway and step through until a gentle stretch is felt in the chest. Hold in each position for 30 - 45 seconds.
Upper Trap Stretch: Gently pull the head toward your shoulder until a stretch is felt. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Do each side.
Chin Tucks: Slowly bring chin in toward your neck and hold for 4-5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Lower Trap Squeeze: Roll shoulders (this helps avoid activating the upper traps...the tight area!) back and squeeze shoulder blades together. Hold for 4 seconds and repeat 10 times.
These will help the muscles that get tight and strengthen weak muscles associated with bad posture. There are more comprehensive posture programs (see Harvard Health for additional information), but this is a good start.
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