College of DuPage Nursing Student Sara Smith shared that if your job or school finds you working from home, chances are you are spending a large portion of your day sitting at a desk. With an increased amount of sitting comes an increased temptation to slouch. Healthy posture is important, whether typing an email, attending a virtual meeting or reading a textbook.
So, what exactly is healthy posture? According to the American Chiropractic Association (2021), a healthy posture is having appropriate body alignment, supported by an appropriate amount of muscle tension against gravity. Good posture involves a position that requires the right amount of muscle tone for the body to maintain itself against the forces of gravity. It does not merely refer to sitting down, but refers to standing, walking, and sleeping (Guide to Good Posture, 2020).
Poor posture may seem harmless, but over time it may cause back neck or shoulder pain. Other complications may include decreased joint mobility and limited functionality resulting in an increased fall risk as well as impaired breathing due to restrictions in the thorax (Guide to Good Posture, 2020).
Good posture requires less strain and stress on muscles, resulting in less muscle fatigue. It also results in proper alignment in the joints of the spine, reducing wear and tear and preventing pain (Maintaining Good Posture, 2021). Finally, good posture improves balance (Guide to Good Posture, 2020).
How to Improve Posture
The most significant way to improve posture is a heightened awareness of posture throughout the day (Guide to Good Posture, 2020). Making it a habit to perform a periodic posture check by examining proper alignment is a great way to start. Next, keeping a posture-friendly environment is important. When sitting at a desk, the legs should remain uncrossed with feet flat on the floor (Maintaining Good Posture, 2021). The knees should be at or below the sitting level, and the back properly supported. There are three natural curves in the spine, one of which is in the lower back (Guide to Good Posture, 2020). The backrest of the chair should support this curve in the lower spine. An additional pillow can achieve a similar result if your chair does not have such a backrest (Guide to Good Posture, 2020). The shoulders should be relaxed, without slouching forward, the forearms parallel to the floor, and the head level—ears in line with shoulders (Maintaining Good Posture, 2021).
Consider a laptop stand to prevent hunching over when working on a laptop. Laptop stands are available for purchase and online tutorials demonstrate how to make a laptop stand from household materials. Similar stands can be applied to the use of books, as well. Finally, be sure to add movement throughout the day. Sitting in the same position for long periods of time is not beneficial to good posture. Get up periodically and walk around the house or take a quick break to stretch before returning to work or studying to help maintain good posture. Just because one does not commute does not mean one should stop moving!
Taking extra steps to improve posture while working or studying at home is like doing the body a favor; the whole body will benefit from the additional effort to keep posture a priority.
Maintaining good posture. (2021). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Posture
Guide to good posture. (2020). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/guidetogoodposture.html