Learning tips and tricks for maintaining proper posture at work, whether your job involves sitting, standing or moving around, is critical to avoiding injuries and staying healthy.
How can someone know if they are maintaining proper posture when sitting at their desk?
Dr. Ryan Bellacov: Well, we are sitting way too much as a society. On average, we sit about 9.3 hours a day, far more than we are sleeping. On average, we sleep only seven hours, to give a good comparison. So sitting is so prevalent, that we don’t even question we’re doing it. Our bodies are meant for movement. Public health officials have even compared sitting to the new smoking. So sitting definitely has health risks, has been linked to obesity, Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and even shorter lifespan.
So what can we do about sitting? That is very dear to me, as a chiropractor, and having a post doctorate in occupational health. If you’re sitting at your computer, the most optimal is the top of your computer screen, looking straight ahead, feet planted on the ground, your thighs parallel to the ground, everything within reaching distance, especially on your dominant hand. If you use a phone a lot, it should be on your dominant side.
Those little tricks can really help your posture while sitting at your office.
And for those people who do not sit at a desk, how will they know if they have proper posture?
Dr. John-Paul Whitmire: Hi. This is Dr. Whitmire. Let me take that one. Posture is involved in all aspects of our life, whether we’re running, sitting, standing. Whatever we’re doing, there is a proper posture that goes with it. Most people have understood that there’s a posture for proper lifting. Most people are taught proper lifting techniques. One of the things that we do in our clinic is we spend a lot of time examining our patients for posture or postural issues. When people get injuries, a lot of times we can trace that back to a postural problem they have. So we are looking at muscle tone. We are looking at muscle balance from side to side. We are looking at their muscle memory.
So there is a lot of things that we can look for and identify for the patients, to identify whether they have proper posture or not. And then we also have to know who the patient is. Do we need to analyze this person, the way they run? Do we need to watch how they lift at work? Have they had accidents in the past that don’t allow them to turn their head all the way to the right, or lift their left shoulder up high enough? Those are all things about posture in life, and posture with motion, that we try to identify for our patients.
What are some common tools people can use to make sure they maintain proper posture?
Dr. Ryan Bellacov: We are creatures of habit. So starting with the basics is really important, looking at the psychology. So what motivates us to break some of those poor posture habits. A Kentucky study, done a couple years ago, was looking at how we perceive each other with poor posture. People that had poor posture, often people attributed to being 20 pounds heavier, and less good looking, even though that person was 20 years younger.
Other things that posture can affect is emotion. But this is more of a recent study that we’re looking at. And we kind of know this intuitively. If we’re hunched over, looking down, our behaviors and how we perceive ourselves.
During a work day, how often should people be taking a break to stretch or move?
Dr. Ryan Bellacov: It’s very important to fight that chained to the desk feeling. Taking a 10 minute break to just walk around is really important. Things that you can do to help with posture and influence movement is parking further away from places you work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, putting that printer a little bit further from you, so you have to get up.
I think, a lot of times, we don’t realize the important of stretching. So even when you’re typing at the computer a lot, it is really important to stretch those forearms.
Can having poor posture at work cause health problems?
Dr. Ryan Bellacov: A recent Australian study found that after the age of 25, every single hour of television or slouching on the couch reduced a person’s life expectancy by 21 minutes. Plus, the researchers cross referenced sitting time with other health outcomes in different studies. And they found out people who sat more than doubled their risk of developing diabetes, and had 147% increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they exercised.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. John-Paul Whitmire visit www.whitmirechiropracticwellness.com or call 503-362-1002 to schedule an appointment.