If you work at a desk all day, you’re no stranger to poor posture and back pain. Sitting for hours at a time, especially if you need to stare at a computer, usually means that you find yourself with shoulders slumped forward and your back or neck at an uncomfortable angle.
But does constant bad posture lead to any lasting ill effects on the body?
Although there’s only limited research on the benefit of good posture, doctors do have a few facts to support your mom’s assertion that slouching sucks. So sit up straight and read on to find out how improving your posture may improve your overall health.
What Science Says About Your Back
There have been a few studies on how posture affects your muscles and bones over time.
For instance, one 1999 study determined that a sitting angle of 110-130 degrees was ideal, while another study in 2007 pointed to 135 degrees as the #1 posture zone.
While the results of the studies weren’t precise, there are irrefutable facts about how pretzel-like posture can negatively impact your long-term health.
Says Dr. Mladen Golubic, medical director for the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute:
If you [sit and slouch] day after day, and your muscles are not strong, the whole skeleton changes. I’m not aware of any studies that look at the changes in the volume of organs like the liver and spleen when you sit straight or slump forward. But we do know that when you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation.
In addition to the psychological effects, sitting in curved, unnatural positions also compounds the issues caused simply by staying seated for long amounts of time.
If you’re chained to your keyboard and your chair all day and almost never stand or walk, you’re at a higher risk for chronic illness.
Dr. Golubic lists obesity and heart disease as some of the dangers posed by a sedentary lifestyle; combined with possible back problems, it’s obvious that sitting around all day isn’t great for you.
How to Avoid Common Problems Caused by Bad Posture
Try straightening up in your chair right now — you’ll probably breathe easier. According to Dr. Golubic, a straight spine, strong core, and active shoulder blades will expand your chest and increase the air you’re able to take in.
This will improve your focus. Just plant your feet and avoid slumping into the back of your chair. You can even try out a posture-measuring app called PostureTrack.
Familiar with lower back pain at the end of the work day? Try yoga. As a practice, yoga teaches you to align your body correctly and sit in a way that enhances strength, not warps your spine. You’ll also strengthen your core muscles.
When in Doubt, Walk
Although there are lots of ways to improve your normal seated position, the best way to avoid back problems and sedentary-related illnesses is to move your body as much as possible.
That means taking as many work breaks as possible in order to walk or at least stand up. Take short strolls around your building or stand up and stretch for a few minutes between tasks. The less time you spend melting into your chair and slouching towards your screen, the better.
So what are your favorite tricks for improving posture? Have any advice for those wanting to improve their core fitness and flexibility? Tell us in the comments!