The Do's and Don'ts of Good Posture
Recently, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario just found that the old claim that using a Pilates ball instead of a chair will improve posture might not be as beneficial as we once thought. Spinal care science, just like most other aspects of nutrition, seems to be providing a lot of mixed messages, so how can we know how to maintain healthy, youthful posture? Danielle Braff of the Chicago Tribune reports on some unquestionably beneficial ways that we can encourage and maintain better posture throughout our lives.
Reposition your monitor: Nowadays, most of us spend the majority of our time staring at a computer screen. When we focus so intently on the subject at hand, we tend to forget what our back, our shoulders and our neck are doing. To make good posture in this instance a bit more automatic, Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get It Straight! Look Ten Years Younger, Ten Pounds Thinner and Feel Better Than Ever, recommends placing your computer monitor one to two feet away from your face with your eyes level with the top of the monitor. This will keep your head correctly in line with your neck.
Lumbar Rolls: Dr. Richard Guyer, orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of the Texas Back Institute advises placing a lumbar roll behind the small of your back while sitting in order to maintain the normal curvature of your back.
Reposition yourself while driving: It seems that most of the time if we’re not in front of a computer screen, we’re behind the wheel of a car. So, it makes sense that the positioning of your driver’s seat can seriously affect your posture. Novak suggests, in order to relax your upper back and neck muscles, keep your body at least 13 inches away from the steering wheel and position the incline of your seat so that your lower back is against the back of the seat and your head is actually resting on the head rest. Additionally, your elbows should rest at a 120 degree angle when holding the steering wheel.
Strengthen your core muscles: Dr. Levi Harrison orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles and author of The Art of Fitness: A Journey to Self Enhancement, advocates the use of three sets of basic and side planks every day, holding each pose for 30 seconds. That’s just 4.5 minutes of core work a day to strengthen your core and support your posture.
High heels: Sorry ladies, but heels higher than one inch increase lower back pressure and discomfort, according to Novak. Heels put too much pressure on the ball of the foot and toes, they shorten the muscles and tendons on the back of your ankle and they can lead to shin splints by stretching and weakening the muscles on the front of your ankle. Novak says it’s best, if you must wear heels, to never wear them for more than four hours a day.
Ottomans: You may think you’re relaxing, but Mary Ann Wilmarth, chief of physical therapy at Harvard University warns otherwise. Straight extension of your legs while “resting” actually places more stress on your lower back. She advises it’s better to rest with both knees bent.
Soft Couches: Your couch should support you, not swallow you. Use pillows to assist your posture if your couch is too soft, urges Wilmarth.
Obliviousness: The biggest weapon against good posture is being distracted and not paying attention to the position of your neck, your back, your legs, or your shoulders. Lindsay Newitter, spokeswoman for the Alexander Technique proposes, “A great first step is to start developing an awareness of yourself in the midst of activity.”
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.