Zooming from the couch? Propping your laptop on the picnic table? In this new work-from-home environment, many of us are spending our workdays in far less comfortable environments than those we left behind. And in many cases, this means we’ve had to throw good ergonomics out the window.
But that’s a problem, because maintaining good body alignment is essential to prevent back, neck and shoulder pain. While we can tolerate discomfort in the short term, the long-term result is injury and even chronic pain.
The solution: Sitting straight and standing tall. Try these these posture pointers to begin training yourself on good body alignment.
1. Sit Up Straight
Easier said than done, right? It can take some effort at first to maintain good posture while sitting, but if you keep it up your muscles adapt and eventually it becomes second nature.
Consider the places you usually sit – your car seat, desk chair, living room sofa, for example. Are you able to sit up straight with your shoulders back and spine aligned, or do they cause you to hunch over? If so, seat inserts or lumbar supports may help. Be sure your workstation is ergonomically correct, with your monitor at eye level, feet on the floor and wrists extended from elbows.
2. Keep Moving
It’s best not to hold any one position for more than an hour at a time, according to ergonomics experts. In fact, a recent study at the University of Michigan found that it’s best to move every seven minutes to remain pain free throughout the workday. While that may not be possible, try to shift position as often as you can, and take phone calls while walking to give yourself a break.
3. Stand When You Can
There’s no two ways about it, standing is better for you than sitting. The more you stand, the better it is for your posture and standing also helps protect you from a host of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Switching to a standing desk at work is an excellent way to prevent the health issues caused by sitting long hours.
4. Strengthen your Core
They may not seem directly related, but strong core muscles are necessary to keep your spine strong and hold it in the correct position. There are many excellent core exercises you can do at home to strengthen these deep muscles. Yoga tones the torso — both abdominal and lower-back muscles — to stabilize your pelvis and keep your spine in a neutral position. And Pilates is all about posture and the core, so if you need real posture help, consider trying Pilates.
5. Stretch and Stretch Again
Regular stretching does wonders to keep the tension from building up in your back, shoulders and neck. The experts at Kaiser Permanente recommend doing a short series of overhead and side stretches at intervals throughout the day.
6. Set Up Reminders
For many of us, slouching and hunching are a very old habit, and changing habits isn’t easy. You might try putting reminder notes on your computer and refrigerator – even in your car – to check in with your posture throughout the day.