The Science Of Sitting: How To Improve Your Posture (And Your Mood!) - Save Our Bones

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are spending more time than ever at home. This means more hours sitting at the desk, in front of the TV, or on the couch.

It's important to set aside time to get up and move, of course, but it's also important to maintain good posture while sitting. Today you'll learn easy ways to ensure proper posture while sitting, its amazing benefits, and we share exercises that will help you achieve it.

The Effects Of Poor Posture

Poor posture affects more than just how you look. Your mind has the incredible ability to maintain awareness of the position of your body, even when you can't see yourself. This ability, called proprioception is key to understanding the power of posture to change your mood.

Researchers in New Zealand had 74 participants complete a series of tasks to assess the relationship between posture and several physical and psychological metrics, including heart rate, blood pressure, mood, self-esteem, and stress levels.1

The study found that participants with a slumped posture reported feeling more fearful, nervous, passive, sleepy, and dull compared with participants with straighter posture, who reported more positive emotions and higher self-esteem. Here is the researchers' conclusion:

“Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture… Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress. The research is consistent with embodied cognition theories that muscular and autonomic states influence emotional responding.”1

In addition to these significant mental and emotional effects, poor posture also has a negative impact on your body. Sitting in a slumped or unsupported position can lead to Forward Head Posture (FHP), a physical condition linked to an increased risk of fracture.2

The name of the condition makes it easy to envision. Sitting at a desk, craning toward a computer screen, can quickly lead to Forward Head Posture. Here are some of the associated health problems:

  • Tension headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Herniated discs
  • Pinched nerves
  • Vision problems (from eye strain due to inefficient head position)
  • Poor balance

When you sit for long periods without proper alignment, your body strains to support itself, and this strain leads to tension and pain in the shoulders, neck, and back. Ultimately, as with Forward Head Posture, injury can follow.

Synopsis

Poor posture can have a negative impact on your mood and self-confidence and can cause serious physical problems like Forward Head Posture (FHP). Poor posture strains the body and can cause physical imbalances, tension, pain, headaches, and injury.

Set Yourself Up For Good Posture

Before we look at how to use your body to improve your posture, let's consider how you can support good posture through a careful arrangement of your surroundings. Use these strategies that make it easier to maintain good posture.

  • Set up a desk with enough space for your computer, laptop, or whatever equipment you're using.
  • Don't work on the couch or in bed — these provide little support, resulting in poor posture.
  • Find a way to convert your sitting desk to a standing desk. You can buy an adjustable desktop platform that raises and lowers, or keep boxes, big books, or other material handy to lift your computer to standing height when you so desire.
  • Your eyes should be level with the top third of your screen – adjust your screen height accordingly.
  • Make sure your screen is no less than 20 inches away from your face, to prevent eye strain.
  • Your wrists should be aligned with your forearms. Be sure your seat and desktop are at the correct heights for this to be true.
  • The angle of your ankles, knees, and hips should be 90 degrees when seated.
  • Rest your feet flat on the ground.
  • Use a chair with lumbar support — or create lumbar support using a pillow.
  • Your back should be firmly in contact with the back of your chair and fully upright.

Synopsis

To maintain good posture, it’s best to use a desk or workstation set up to facilitate and encourage proper alignment. This includes an eye-level screen, the ability to shift to working while standing, and a seated position that allows knees, ankles, and hips to be comfortably at right angles while the wrists are aligned with the forearms.

How To Protect Yourself From Excessive Sitting

No matter how good your posture might be, sitting for too long is unhealthy. Here are some tips for how you can avoid the negative impacts of prolonged sitting, even when you need to be at a computer or a desk for most of the day.

  • Prioritize standing throughout the day. Alternate between sitting and standing as often as you can, ideally once or twice an hour.
  • Choose tasks you can do standing up, such as taking phone calls or answering emails.
  • Go get some water. Sipping on distilled water with a squeeze of lemon juice supports bone health, and getting a refill is a great reason to get up regularly.
  • Take a movement break. At least once an hour do a stretch, a mobility exercise, or take a walk around the space.
  • If you tend to forget to do these things, set an alarm to help you remember.
  • Find a buddy! If there's someone with you, whether at the office or at home, ask them to build these habits with you. Then you can hold each other accountable for building this new pattern of behavior.

Synopsis

Build habits that break up long periods of sitting. Switch between sitting and standing, get up once or twice an hour to refill your water, take a walk, or do an exercise or stretch. Set an alarm or find an accountability partner to help you build these new behavior patterns.

Exercises To Improve Your Posture

While you're sitting, there are a few very simple physical check-ins and corrections you can do. Take a deep breath and lift your head upright, aligning it with your shoulders. Are your shoulders hunched? Relax them. Check that your feet are on the ground, your ankles, knees, and hips are at 90-degree angles, and your back is upright and pressed against your chair. Breathe in as you pull your shoulders back and lift your head up by lengthening up through the top of your spine. Then exhale, relax, and feel the alignment of your back and head.

The following links contain instructions for simple exercises you can do throughout the day, or during your regular workout, to build strength in the muscles you use to maintain your posture. They will help you undo bad postural habits and make it easier to sit up straight and tall.

  • Seated Posture Corrector — You can do this exericse from your desk chair! It's a simple movement that helps correct the imbalances caused by poor posture.
  • Seated Kyphosis Corrector — This exercise is so subtle, that someone passing by might not even realize you're actively strengthening your rhomboids and trapezius muscles. This is another move you can do at your desk. Once you've learned it, you could easily make it part of your daily work routine.
  • Anytime Anywhere Posture Improver — This move can be done sitting or standing. It protects the thoracic spine by strengthening the muscles of the back and shoulders, helping you to keep your vertebrae aligned.
  • Workday Posture Straightener — This is a standing exercise, but it doesn't require much space, so it's a great one to do while you take your regular breaks from sitting, even if your office or workspace is a little crowded.
  • One Minute Forward Head Posture Corrector — This is the perfect posture-correcting exercise to do at home because it's done lying down with a pillow. This supine position has the added benefit of removing the vertical pressure of gravity from the spine.

Synopsis

Observe your body regularly while sitting to ensure that your head is aligned atop your spine, your shoulders are relaxed, and you're sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Use the exercises at the links above to undo bad habits and build the strength you need to maintain good posture.

What This Means To You

Proper posture is essential for bone health, maintaining strength, and overall physical wellbeing. If you're spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, then arrange your home spaces to support good sitting posture, and pay attention to your body.

Use the exercises in today's article, and if you'd like to gain access to even more posture-improving exercises plus video guides from professional trainers to ensure you're performing them safely and effectively, then check out SaveTrainer. It's the Save Institute's customizable digital workout platform, and right now we're offering 60 days of free access to this valuable resource.

Keep making small changes like improving your sitting posture. They'll add up to a major positive shift in your health and quality of life!

References

1 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-37739-001/

2 http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/ABSTRACTS/Hyperkyphotic_Posture_and_Risk.shtml

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14 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Capt Harbans Singh Dhillon

    Dear Vivian,
    Many thanks for this article on posture. I found it to be very interesting and benficial to everyone who re working on computers for professional work or otherwise. Maintaining good posture is really of great importance. on realising it importance I have forwarded it many of my friends so that they also derive the benefit from your painstakingly conceived and written article. Thank you again for all your help.
    warm regards,
    Harbans Dhillon

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re very welcome!

  2. Utpal Datta

    Oh!
    Mam,
    It’s a great article.
    Really it’s so much helpful in correcting postures while sitting.
    It helped me lot lot in improving my phisical as well as metal stability.
    Thank you very much.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re very welcome, Utpal!

  3. Annabelle

    Thank you for the reminder. Even with broken vertebrae still have to keep head and shoulders in alighnment. Also reminds me to keep following the your programme . Your reminders are very much appreciated.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Yes, proper alignment is crucial and I’m pleased to know that our reminders help you! Be well and keep up with the Program 🙂

  4. Pamela

    Thank you. This articel is very useful now.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Pamela 🙂

  5. Kathy

    Vivian, I tried the first 4 exercises and I will do them every day. Thanks!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      It’s my pleasure, Kathy!

  6. Mirta

    Perfect timing for this article, Vivian! My husband keeps telling me that my posture has gotten worse since the COVID stay in place began, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Now I know! Thank you!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I’m so glad to be able to help, Mirta! Stay safe and healthy, and let us know of your progress.

  7. Mary

    Dear Vivian,

    Thank you so much for this article on posture. Maintaining good posture is really difficult for me and I suffer a lot of pain because of it. So it is good to be reminded of the things we can do to help ourselves. I have raised my computer on my desk as you suggest and find it easier. So thank you again for all your help.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re very welcome, Mary!

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