Don't Be a Slouch: The Health Benefits of Good Posture

The surprising reason behind your aches and pains? It could be your poor posture -- and it's time to straighten things out.
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Working at Your Computer

Mom was right: Standing up straight is the fastest and easiest way to look taller and thinner. But it turns out that perking up your posture can have several other major -- and less obvious -- benefits. "Many women don't realize that they can improve their health simply by changing their posture," says Karen Jacobs, a clinical professor in the department of occupational therapy at Boston University. Bad posture can throw your whole system out of whack, stressing and straining your muscles and joints, compressing blood vessels, and draining your energy.

If that's not enough to motivate you to straighten up, says Jacobs, consider this: Standing tall helps you stay young by preserving your range of motion and staving off age-related skeletal changes that would make you inches shorter.

Ready to change your stance? We asked experts to point out six common bad-posture moments in your day and suggest easy fixes for each one. Their advice will have you looking and feeling a whole lot better in no time!

Slouchy Situation: Working at Your Computer

Spending long hours glued to a monitor is literally a pain in the neck -- and back, and shoulders. "Most people hunch over their keyboard and point their head down," says Jacobs. Laptop users are particularly guilty, since the screen is close to your face and well below eye level. Every inch your head projects forward puts an added 10 pounds of pressure on your neck (ouch!), triggering headaches and lower-back pain.

Sit smart. Your thighs and torso should form a 90-degree angle and both feet should be flat on the floor. (If you're short, rest them on a footstool.) "The key to sitting is aligning your pelvis so that it supports the spine," says Kathleen Porter, author of Ageless Spine, Lasting Health. "Instead of consciously raising your chest, which will cause your back muscles to tense and your lower back to arch, center your weight over the front edge of your sit bones and imagine 'wagging' your tailbone into the right position."

Make your lap off-limits. Yes, the beauty of a laptop is that you can use it anywhere. But when possible, place it on a stand on your desk at least a foot and a half from your face. (That's also where the monitor should be if you're using a desktop computer.) The center of your monitor should be about six inches below your gaze. "Your chin will point down slightly, which lengthens the back of your neck and helps maintain the natural curve of your spine," says Porter.

Don't overreach. Keep your arms close to your body and make sure your wrists are in a neutral position on the keyboard. Your keyboard and mouse should be on the same level, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. If you spend a lot of time on your laptop, invest in a separate keyboard and mouse so that you can maintain that healthy posture, says Jacobs.

Take a breather. Every 30 minutes, get up to stretch and walk around. Holding one position for a long period is tiring and makes it harder for you to maintain good posture. Need help loosening up? Check out our collection of stretches, which you can do at work, at LHJ.com/stretching.

Continued on page 2:  Talking on the Phone

 

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