Sitting: our hidden posture problem & how to overcome it
Just how important is good posture? Consider this – at Elite Akademy, approximately 85% of all people we treat have problems linked with poor posture. Problems include back pain, neck pain, shoulder, knee and hip pain. If you have poor posture it will show up somewhere, even in places you least suspect.
The trouble is that most people think that good posture is for standing only. But seated posture is now a bigger problem, in many ways a hidden problem, something we are seeing more of in our clinic. It’s easy to forget that many people who work in offices spend more time sitting than standing.
Having good sitting posture is crucial because otherwise your body is out of alignment for much of the day. This is one of the primary reasons why there is a biomechanical ‘breakdown’ because the whole musculoskeletal system is overburdened.
WHAT ARE THE BASICS FOR GOOD SEATED POSTURE?
1. Proper alignment in spine – seated upright, with proper support through the chair
2. Proper ergonomics – Many people make mistakes with the position of their computer screen and work desk. Some tips for proper ergonomics include:
• Increase the height of the screen. In 95% of times people have the incorrect height and are looking down. Holding your head just five degrees out of alignment pressures your lower back and can result in neck pain and headaches. This means having screens at eye level looking at the middle of the screen.
• Have somewhere for your arms to rest. If your elbows are on the table or supported by arm rests then there is less tension on the shoulders. If the elbows are not supported then the shoulders tend to drop, which causes slouching.
• Sit closer to the desk and be closer to the computer. This stops you reaching forward for the keyboard, which
POSTURE CAN BE CORRECTED THROUGH REPETITION OF MOVEMENTS AND BECOMES AUTOMATIC
prevents slouching at the shoulders and upper spine
• Make sure the computer or your work is directly in front of you. Even deviations of 5 degrees off centre (screen off to the side) means that there will be an imbalance. We are creatures who prefer symmetry.
3. Position of feet when seated – it’s always best if your feet are on the ground in front of you, or on a footrest. It may seem a small point, but even while seated your feet provide some support for the rest of your body. Ensure that your feet aren’t dangling or placed on the chair’s wheels; dangling places pressure on the lower back; hooking the feet onto the wheel causes undue pressure in the lower and upper back because it decreases alignment.
If people address their sitting posture, then they have a 40-50% improved chance to overcome pain and prevent musculoskeletal injury.
But how is it possible to alter bad habits and correct poor sitting posture?
It takes approximately 3000 reps of straightening your spine (sitting tall) for this to become automated by the brain. This is classified as motor learning and when motor learning occurs then a task becomes automatic. For example, golfers try to automate their movements through practice; being a technical sport it takes about 10,000 reps (swings) to automate a golf swing. Sitting tall and straightening your spine is not technical. Thus it only requires 3000 reps.
Using 3000 reps as a rule, it means if people do 200 reps per day they will achieve good posture in as little as 15 days.
So how do we achieve 200 reps per day? It’s easy to forget posture, so establish some cues.
GIVING YOURSELF A BREAK FROM SITTING FOR TOO LONG IS VITAL
• Every time you check your phone, sit tall. Studies have found people check their phone 60-80 times per day. So that means that in a little as 38-50 days people could change their posture.
• Similar with checking email. Before you open up the emails ‘grow tall’ in the seat. This may account for another 30-50 times per day.
• Team up with someone: great results can be achieved by having allies on board. You may have a partner or colleague who also wants to work on their posture. Together, you can support and remind each other to stand or sit tall: every time you remind someone you remember too.
• Wearable technology such as fitness trackers can become a reminder system. If it turns on/off randomly with movement then it becomes a cue. Using this method alone can help you achieve good posture in about 100 days.
The final key to good posture is to remember that our bodies are 70% water. We are meant to move and moving your body encourages natural lubrication through the joints including those at spinal level.
Get up and walk around the office if possible – you could benefit from a short break every 45 minutes. Even just a couple of minutes makes a difference.
• Poor sitting posture causes back pain, neck pain and other ailments
• Ensure that the ergonomics of your desk are correct
• Train yourself to sit tall and make good posture a habit by using cues
• Remember to get up and move about the office regularly