If your job entails a lot of sitting, do you start to notice a tweak in your lower back after a few hours? Or maybe a pinch between your shoulder blades? Many of us get so caught up in our tasks that we don’t pay attention to our posture at work, which can make us feel stiff or sore. Luckily, trying a few easy exercises and life adjustments can help you sit straighter.
Adjust Your Workstation
The first step to correct your posture is to make sure your workstation is set up in a way that allows you to sit straight. Your chair height, computer height and your distance from the keyboard all make a difference.
The Mayo Clinic describes how an ergonomic workstation should look. Make sure you can put both feet flat on the floor while keeping the top of your monitor at about eye level. If you use the phone often, get a headset so you don’t cradle the receiver between your ear and shoulder.
Get Up and Move
Between working, commuting and watching TV, we spend a lot of time sitting, which is not so great for our health. Not only can it lead to spine problems, but also heart disease and poor circulation.
Now that you’ve got your desk set up to support good posture at work, it’s time to think about how you can get out of your chair for short periods throughout the day. U.S. News recommends standing every 30 minutes. It may earn you some sideways glances from your cube mates, but take a phone call standing or send a couple emails while standing. Walk more throughout the day. Take a lap around the building when you need to clear your mind or get through that 2 p.m. funk. Walk to talk with colleagues rather than calling or emailing.
Stretch a little. While standing, put your hands on your lower back and push your hips forward, opening up your shoulders and chest. Roll your head to stretch your neck.
Stick With It
Watching your posture and remembering to stand may sound easy, but changing any routine is difficult. It’s tough at first to remember to sit up straight or uncross your legs. You may get caught up in the work you’re doing and don’t want to stop and stand.
But, once you make these things habits, you’ll feel better and be more motivated to keep them up. To start, print out an image that illustrates proper posture (such the one in the Mayo Clinic article) as a reminder of how you should be sitting. If words are more motivating, keep a sticky note at your workstation that lists the benefits of good posture or the harm that bad posture can do.
Set a reminder on your phone for every 30 minutes (or every hour to start) to let you know when to stand up or do a couple stretches.
Want to really challenge yourself to improve your posture? Try stickK.com and put money on the line. Set your goal and choose two recipients: a charity you love that will get money if you succeed and an organization you disagree with (or even just an unworthy friend) to receive a donation if you fail. Get a coworker involved and hold each other accountable!
Now that you know what to do, give it a try — get up and stretch right now. Once you can turn stretching and sitting up straight into habits, everyone around you might just see how much better you feel and give it a try.