Ask LH: How Can I Improve My Posture At Work?

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Dear Lifehacker, I work in a typical 9-to-five office job. I can tell my posture isn't ideal and I catch myself slouching all the time. But when I try to consciously sit up straight, it quickly becomes uncomfortable and I slip right back to where I started within the hour. Do you have any beginner-friendly tips for easing myself into better posture habits? Thanks, Terminal Sloucher

Dear TS,

Maintaining a healthy posture is more important than most people realise. As we've discussed in the past, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine over time, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs and joints. It's something you don't want to be half-arsed about.

When sitting, it's important that your lower back gets proper support. This will help maintain a good posture and avoid lower back ache in the long run. You should also try to keep the top of your computer screen at eye level so that you're not craning your neck downwards. (This is one reason why many people end up slouching; to ease the strain in their necks.)

Adjusting your office chair and/or using a laptop or monitor stand should help to get you in the optimal position. You can also make sitting an active state by pulling in your abdominal muscles to about 20 per cent of full strength.

Another solution is to invest in a standing desk. This is something that we're big proponents of here at Lifehacker. We've been using one on and off since 2013, and it's truly changed the way we work for the better. In addition to encouraging better posture and helping to burn calories, it also helps you to remain focused on actual work instead of slouching back lazily in your chair.

Of course, not every workplace is open to the idea of standing desks -- particularly if budgets are tight or your colleagues' desks are all interconnected. Plus, standing does not necessary ensure good posture. Indeed, poor standing posture can actually be worse for your overall health than sitting.

We also presented your query to Dr. Charles Wang, a US physician and co-founder of Lumo Bodytech, a real-time health tracker specifically designed for body movement. Here's what Dr Wang had to say:

Start with small changes and short periods of focused time when you are trying to improve your posture. A big part of the challenge is that your core muscles are so used to the way you are currently sitting and standing, so they are, in essence, weakened at this point.   It's not uncommon to experience sore muscles for a few weeks after making postural corrections. This is natural, but don’t overdo it.   Stay focused on changing your posture for short periods of time, until you feel more comfortable being in these new positions. Then start to increase the amount of time that you spend sitting or standing in more upright postures.

You can find a bunch of additional posture-correcting tips via our in-depth guide on the subject or Lifehacker's Ergonomics tag. Good luck!

We also want to hear from former slouchers who corrected their posture. Share your best tips with TS in the comments section below.

See also: How To Stay Healthy In The Office: Pay Attention To Ergonomics

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Postdoc fellow here working 9-5 on a computer and gaming at night. My problem with good posture is to maintain it for long periods of time. Usually I try to get a good posture but I gradually start lounging. I haven't had any back pain yet at 30 but I believe it is starting to get painful if I adopt a bad posture a few days in a row. I would love to get a standing desk but there is no plan for that in my office.

    So I added back stretches 2 or 3 times per week as part of my exercise routine and I think it helps tremendously. I'm considering integrating more core strength to it as well...

    If you are using google chrome there are extensions that you can add to it to remind you not to slouch. I have mine set to remind me every 15 minutes. I have found since using this my posture is much better throughout the workday.

      There is also workrave for Windows and Linux, which locks you out of the computer periodically, forcing you to take a break (it also shows exercises to do). There's something similar for Mac, I think it's called timeout.

    Posture isn't as important as you think, the issues usually arise from prolonged time in one position. The simplest tip should be as Brendon suggests to install an app or alarm that gets you moving.
    Whether it be sit/stand/treadmill desks, you just need to alter your body position so you don't get stuck in pain - stand up and stretch or twist!

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