Last week on Wellness Wednesday we talked about the physical and mental benefits that having good posture provides. After reading that you’ll know why good posture is so important; the pressing question now is how to maintain it. Even after a lifetime of being told to sit up straight by well-meaning adults it can be hard to get in the habit of keeping your back straight.
Here are some tips and strategies you can use to help keep yourself properly aligned.
A Posture Primer
When it comes to maintaining good posture, keep these steps in mind:
- Stand straight with your shoulders back
- Pull in your abdomen
- Put your weight on the balls of your feet, not the front
- Don’t lock your knees and keep your feet shoulder-width apart
- Let your hands hang at your sides
The Invisible String Method
You don’t have to balance a book on top of your head to perfect your posture. A much simpler and lower-impact approach is to use your imagination. While you’re in an upright position, imagine a perfectly straight string is inside your spine, a string that extends out of the top of your head like a wick on a candle or the flat hook of a Christmas tree ornament. As you’re walking or standing up, imagine that a hand (it could be yours or some much larger hand like something out of a Monty Python animation) is pulling at that string, a gentle tug to keep the line taut. That simple visualization trick is an easy way to remind yourself to straighten your back and help get you back in a healthy position when you catch yourself slouching.
If you spend a lot of your day seated, you need to make time to, in the words of the late James Brown, “get up, get on up.” A sedentary lifestyle is bad for your back. Plan to take regular standing and walking intervals if you’re working at a computer. Incorporating a daily regimen of stretching and physical activity will help keep you (and your back!) loose and limber. When you do work on the computer, try and bring the keyboard closer to your chest; this will both put less pressure on your arms and reduce the risk of you hunching over to peck away at the keyboard.
Most of us regularly use our phones without thinking of how it can impact our health. Think of the classic “taking a call” position: phone cradled between ear and shoulder, head craned to the side to listen. Do that multiple times a day, multiple times a week, and that math adds up to neck strain and other long-term back problems. Texting can also be tricky as our bodies have a tendency to lean forward as we text, craning our necks down and sometimes slouching to focus on our screens.
The solution for this: go hands-free whenever you can. Put on headphones with a mic or use a Bluetooth earpiece. And when you get caught in a long text conversation or feel the need to scroll Instagram for a while, make an effort to sit upright while you do so (maybe by pulling that invisible string).
Your legs are a bundle of muscles and nerves that connect with your spine. When your feet are in pain, that pain can travel. One of the most important things you can do to protect your spine and maintain your posture is to wear comfortable and supportive shoes. A worn-down sole could lead to foot injuries that could trigger your sciatic nerve, make you limp, or throw off your balance which can lead to slouching and other distortions in your posture.