You are probably slouching right now, aren’t you? Well, you’re not alone. As students, we spend a lot of time sitting down. In fact, we spend almost 10 hours of our waking time being sedentary – and you can bet your bottom that a lot of that time is likely spent developing bad posture.

Old photograh of three school boys reading in chairs in a line, each slouching more than the last.

There are a surprising amount of health risks that are associated with poor posture; increased feelings of depression, increased risk in cardiovascular disease, and poor circulation are just the beginning. The fact of the matter is, we aren’t designed to spend as much time sitting and being sedentary as we do. The other, very unavoidable, fact of the matter is we need to study, we need to work and we need to make a living. For a lot of us, that means prolonged periods of sitting. Here are ten simple ways you can improve your posture – and your mood, and your physical health – while at work.

  1. Keep your ears in line with your shoulders: this will help with your posture alignment and from leaning too far forward or backward.
  2. Pull back your shoulder blades: this small movement of moving your shoulder blades back and down will help to avoid getting rounded shoulders. Tip: while keeping your shoulders down, squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if you’re trying to hold a pen with your back. Hold this for 10-20 seconds and repeat several times a day.
diagram of woman with arms stretched out a shoulder height, then another image of her with arms held straight abover her head and arrows showing she has moved her arms up and together.

Wall Angel Diagram

  1. Break up your work day with small shoulder and chest exercises: doing a wall angel (shown in the photo above) or shoulder shrugs (lift and lower your shoulders up and down) will help to loosen up tense areas.
  2. Keep feet flat on the floor: try to keep leg and ankle crossing to a minimum. This will help with improving circulation and even weight distribution. Also, untuck those feet from under your chair!
  3. Keep your screen at eye level: adjust the monitor so that the top of the computer screen is no more than two inches above eye level and is an arm’s length away. Screens that are too high or too low can strain your neck and eyes.
  4. Change up your position: ideally, you’d take a short (one to two minute) break every 30 minutes but I understand how that can be a little unrealistic when you’re in the middle of a productive work session. Instead, try changing your position to redistribute your weight and readjust for good posture.
  5. Take a deep breath: because the diaphragm moves vertically to expand your lungs with air, it plays an important role in upright posture.
  6. Stretch your neck: gently roll your neck so that your left ear is close to your left shoulder. Slowly move the top of your head forward and over to the right shoulder and repeat several times. Do not roll your head back behind you.
  7. Use your imagination: think of a straight pole passing through your body from ceiling to floor (graphic, we know, but it works) to align your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
  8. Practice the arm-across-chest stretch: extend your right arm in front of you and bend your elbow to make a 90-degree angle. Use your left hand to pull the right elbow into and across your chest until you feel a stretch in the right upper arm and shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds, relax, and repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Find a good trigger to help you remember to use these stretches and tips, such as doing one or more of them when you get up from your desk or right before scheduled breaks. By doing these tips regularly, with time, these reminders will (hopefully) become habits.

By Bianca Chan, BJ 2017 (Carleton)

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