Imagine you get up at 5:45 each morning to make sure that you get your run in before the day begins. You get home from your run, shower, get ready, maybe help get the kids off to school, and then drive to work. You walk into the office around 8:30 AM... and then sit. And sit. And sit some more. Your workday ends around 5:30 PM when you head home. You work at what has become a traditional company. You sit at your desk for most of the day, getting up to go to meetings and maybe to lunch, but use your computer most of the day to answer emails, write documents, and whatever else is required of your job.
Does this sound familiar? In many business environments, this experience is the norm. You might be somewhat ahead of the game in that you wake up early for exercise, but the rest of your day might be spent sitting in front of a screen. We’ve evolved from hunting and gathering to sitting!
As Darwin taught us long ago, humans adapt to their surroundings to survive. Without quoting any health statistics, you know just by looking at people around you that we are unhealthier today as a society than in the past. Jobs of the past included laboring; however, today’s corporate jobs? Not so much. We have adapted to our surroundings.
What has this done to our bodies? Plenty. But what can we do about it? Actually, plenty.
One of many things that can be done at work today to make it healthier: correcting posture. Regardless of your goals – to lose weight, to gain muscle, to run a 10K, or more – it will create a great foundation onto which you can build.
Quick! Stop your reading right now and freeze your body and check the position in which it sits. Are your shoulders raised? Is your head/neck area slouched forward and stressed? Is your back straight up-and-down, and are your buttocks pushed to the back of the chair? Are your legs crossed or flat on the floor? All of these positions can adversely affect your health over time.
Let's look at 4 focus areas to create better posture:
#1 – Your back. While there are many benefits to your spine from sitting straight up, I want to talk about a benefit almost as critical. With a straight back pushed flat against the back of your chair, test your breathing. Feel any different? With your back straight, you can inhale and exhale almost as freely as when you are standing straight up. That allows for a number of key things to happen. First, as you breathe more freely and deeply, you bring more oxygen into your system. With more oxygen in your bloodstream, and in the right posture, oxygen flows more freely throughout the body, most importantly to your brain. More oxygen to the brain increases your ability to think, to focus, and to reason almost immediately. All this from simply correcting your back posture at your desk!
#2 – Let's check your shoulders. Are you leaning toward your computer while you’re reading? If you are, your shoulders are more than likely raised, especially if your arms are rested on the arm rests of your chair or your desk. Your body usually helps you support your head and neck, but if you're leaning over, it can't do that. With portions of your body out of position, this creates stress, too much of which will create sore shoulders and stiff necks. In addition, too much of this can cause headaches as the muscular stress from your shoulders and neck then travels to your head.
So, with your back straight, and now your head up, what are the other factors that you should think of? There are two – your buttocks and your legs.
#3 – Your buttocks. Think about when your blood pressure is taken – your muscles and blood vessels are tightened as a nurse wraps the monitor around your arm and takes your pressure. Short-term pressure like this causes no harm; however, constant, constricted vessels can cause long term damage.
Your buttocks are the largest muscles on your body, a fact that my kids hilariously like to remind me of every so often. The longer you sit, the longer your buttocks are under pressure. This pressure, much like when taking a blood pressure, restricts blood flow. And much like making sure oxygen flows well to your brain, making sure that blood flows well from your heart to your legs (through your buttocks) is critical. Take standing breaks throughout the day, at least 5 minutes each and every hour, to allow for proper blood flow throughout your body. Without your buttocks pressured by the chair, you’ll find your body feels much better.
#4 – And lastly, your legs. I hope that you start to see a pattern here. Which do you think is better for your legs – crossed at the knee, crossed at the ankles, or feet flat on the ground? If you said feet flat on the ground, then congratulations! If I had prizes to hand out I would, but instead, know that your legs are happier because your feet are touching the floor. Crossing your legs at the knee restricts blood flow in the same way the other postures do. However, it also puts strain on the knees themselves. Knees are delicate creatures, and the more you can do to keep them in good shape, the better. Crossing your legs at the ankles, while not perfect, is certainly the best option if you feel you need to cross them in some way.
Do you think better breathing, a straighter spine, less stress, and better blood flow are benefits you’d like to feel? Posture often goes overlooked when thinking about what can help create a healthy body, but hopefully not now. So – back straight, butt back, legs uncrossed, with multiple breaks throughout the day. These will help create a solid foundation to build upon to reach your goals, whatever those might be.