No Turtle Necks Here

Proper Posture Pays in Productivity, Good Health

“Oh, my aching back!”

“Boy is my neck stiff!”

If you’ve ever uttered these words (and who hasn’t), you are a victim of the effects of poor posture.

Your mother and teachers knew that sitting up straight is important. What they may not have known was how proper posture can positively impact productivity.

According to Cloud Productivity, slouching in your chair or hunching over your computer has the potential to drain your energy and interest. You gradually begin to feel tired and bored and your mind may wander to something like YouTube or Craigslist.

Poor posture also leads to fidgeting as you search for a comfortable position. And while a little fidgeting may seem a minor intrusion into the workday, a Dynamic Markets study conducted among more than 1,000 United Kingdom office workers revealed workers invested 39.2 minutes each day fidgeting or rearranging their desks in a quest for comfort.

This amounts to approximately 18 days of lost work time each year!

Physical impacts of poor posture

Poor posture is a primary cause of back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the resulting discomfort can affect your ability to concentrate and ultimately your job performance. Good posture results when joints and bones are aligned, placing less pressure on areas such as the shoulders and lower back. The spine should resemble a soft “s” shape rather than appearing rigid and straight.

Poor posture – especially when you slouch over your computer – causes wear and tear on the discs in your back and boosts the likelihood of future injuries. In addition, your back works overtime in an attempt to straighten your body, creating upper, lower and middle back pain. Your neck also overcompensates, resulting in tight shoulder and neck muscles and possible headaches.

Best-selling fitness author and personal trainer Mike Westerdal refers to the forward head posture that people often adopt when texting or working on a computer as “turtle neck,” which, he says, decreases your breathing, seriously impacts your mood and may even impact your digestion and ability to sleep.

According to natural horsemanship trainer and instructor Holly Williamson, when riders practice good posture, the head weighs about 10 pounds as it is aligned with the neck and shoulders. When the body assumes a slouching position, the head and neck move forward, placing from 25 to 40 pounds of pressure on the neck and spine.

If you’re riding a horse, this added pressure causes soreness and stiffness while you’re in the saddle or after you dismount. You will experience similar pain and stiffness if you sit with a “turtle neck” at your desk during the workday.

Planning for good posture

According to your chair probably contributes most to a healthy work environment. It’s important to adjust your chair to the right height, which is usually elbow level.

Start by placing the chair seat at the highest setting and adjusting it downward until your legs and feet feel comfortable. The back of your knees should be at an open angle (about 90 degrees) so they are not compressed.

When you sit, keep your thighs parallel with the floor and recline slightly – if you can – to ease the pressure on your lower back. Avoid pressure points, such as pushing the back of your knees against your chair, which can impede circulation.

You should also reposition your monitor so the top of your screen is eye level and your monitor is about arm’s length away from your face. Get a headset for your phone so you’re not lodging it between your neck and shoulder. And, keep your feet flat on the floor.

Moving helps

Ergonomists agree there is no seated, static posture that office personnel should adopt when working at their desks throughout the day. It’s better to move around in your chair and adjust your posture as needed (without fidgeting). You should also get up and walk as often as possible.

Stretch exercises can help reduce back pain and strengthen your muscles. Other stretch exercises (some you can perform at your desk) may help ease pain and stiffness in your neck.

Practicing good posture is not always easy and requires a conscious effort. But you’ll reap many physical and mental rewards, including less back and neck pain, greater energy and concentration and better overall productivity and good health.

Please share any advice you have for achieving and maintaining good posture and the benefits.


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