From your sleep schedule to the stock market, nothing has been left unchanged by the coronavirus pandemic. It has now been a year since COVID-19 hit hard in Australia and even though most of us have not had to physically deal with the virus, our lives have all been touched by it in some way.
If you’re fortunate to still have a job, it is most likely not business as usual; your workmates may be gone, your workload may be bigger or smaller, your job description may have changed, and more often than not, you are now probably working from home. Not only is the move from the office to home a drastic difference, but dealing with tight deadlines, low job security, endless Zoom meetings, strict COVID-19 restrictions, and inadequate office facilities, posture is likely the last thing on your mind.
And why should it be? Working is working no matter where you do it, right? I mean your just sitting at a computer, how different can it be? Studies are now showing that working from home makes you more prone to poor posture because while the office is designed to support and sustain long periods of work, our homes are usually designed to maximize leisure and comfort.
Unless you have a home office, your workstation at home is probably not as sophisticated as the one at work. For this reason, your posture is probably suffering more at home than it did at work. In fact, higher reports of back pain have been recorded during the pandemic than before, especially among older individuals.
Why must we improve our posture during the COVID-19 pandemic?
You might wonder why one would be thinking about their posture of all things with so much going on in the world. First of all, we must always cater to all areas of health because our bodies need constant care to stay in the best shape. Even during difficult times such as a lockdown, we must maintain healthy habits like a good diet, an active lifestyle, good mental health, and yes, good posture. Good posture is about more than maintaining a straight back, it protects you from both short-term and long-term health consequences.
Here are some good reasons for you to maintain a good posture during the pandemic and beyond;
- Good posture improves respiratory ability and efficiency; sitting upright gives your chest cavity room to expand and contract maximizing your breathing capacity.
- Improved digestion; similar to the respiratory system, the digestive system is allowed enough room to operate when one maintains good posture
- Better physical appearance; if you would like one advantage of good posture that you can see and feel, here it is. Maintaining an upright posture will help you look better in general and appear more confident to others.
- Good posture will help you keep your muscles healthy by keeping them in their natural rested positions as opposed to the strained positions in poor postures.
- Healthy spine; sitting and standing upright places the spine in its normal position protecting it from misalignment and potential injuries in the future.
- Reduced headaches; do you suffer from headaches after a long day at work? You probably attribute this to fatigue but it could be a result of poor posture. Good posture relieves your neck from tension causing fewer headaches after long periods of sitting.
What can you do to maintain good sitting posture during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Good posture can be achieved in many ways and everyone’s case is different. What you do during your day, what type of chair and desk you are sitting at and the type of computer you are using all impact your posture. Some of the ways you can maintain good desk posture include:
- Adjust your chair or computer monitor so that the top 1/3rd of the computer screen is at eye level to minimize the strain on your neck.
- If you’re using a laptop place a box or a stack of books under your laptop and use a wireless keyboard and mouse so the screen is high enough to maintain good posture.
- Adjust the height of your chair so your elbows have a comfortable 90-degree bend with your forearms resting on the desk. If your chair is not adjustable try adding a cushion on the seat or raising the table with blocks under the legs.
- Avoid slouching at your desk. Try to maintain a neutral spine as much as possible. If possible, use a wireless keyboard and mouse to prevent bending your back to access them.
- Walk around or take a standing break every 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will help you maximize blood and oxygen delivery to all your cells and tissues.
- Ensure your feet rest on the floor while you work. This will help reduce the pressure applied on your thighs and increase circulation to your legs. If your chair or table is too high, place a box on the floor for your feet to rest on.
- Avoid crossing your legs as it causes misalignment of the spine by shifting the weight of your body onto one leg.
- Do not lean back. Sit upright and try to maintain a 900 angle between your torso and thighs.
- Try a standing desk – if you don’t have one at home, you can place a small coffee table on top of your table
How to maintain good posture when you are away from your computer.
If you are not spending a large part of your day at a computer, it is still just as important to maintain good posture. Good posture is not just crucial when we are seated, it also applies to the way we run, walk, sleep, and exercise. Here are some ways you can maintain good posture in your day-to-day activities:
- Be mindful of your posture in whatever you do whether it is watching TV, sleeping, or exercising. This will help you establish how good or poor your posture is and if it needs correction.
- Maintain a physically active lifestyle. Fit some active time into your schedule even if it is just 10 minutes of walking, yoga, or Pilates. Any amount of physical activity is better than no physical activity at all.
- Avoid spending long periods of time in one position by taking standing or walking breaks every 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- When sleeping or lying down, use a good quality firm pillow to give your neck support.
- Maintain a healthy weight; an increase in body weight beyond which your body can adequately support can apply extra pressure on your knees, spine, and back resulting in a change in posture if not corrected.
- Practice core strengthening exercises like planks and glute bridges to help you maintain good posture when sitting and standing
- Lie flat on the ground for 3 to 10 minutes a day with pillow support under your knees to allow your body to reset to a neutral posture, or reset your posture against a wall every day.
How will bad posture affect my health?
If you maintain a bad posture for a long time, you may encounter health consequences that go beyond neck and back cramps. Some of the effects of a bad posture include:
- Misalignment of the skeletal system particularly the spine; is often a result of maintaining poor posture over long periods of time. It is common in people who sit for long periods with poor posture practices like slouching and sitting cross-legged.
- Fatigue; your muscles work to support you in whatever position you maintain whether it is sitting or standing. However, when you maintain a poor posture, your muscles have to work even harder to support you in an unnatural position resulting in fatigue.
- Poor posture makes you more prone to spinal injury in the future.
- Shoulder, neck, and back pain; as your muscles in the neck, back and shoulders work extra hard to maintain a poor posture, they get strained resulting in muscle pain and cramps.
- Reduced breathing capacity; when hunched forward, your rib cage does not have enough space to fully expand especially during inhalation. This will result in a compromised intake of air during each breath cycle leaving you with the dangers of not breathing deeply.
What can I do about my already poor posture?
We have lived under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now and it may have already taken a toll on your posture. Switching immediately from poor to correct posture will not be easy and may actually cause some muscle pain instead. To transition to better posture, you have to warm your muscles and joints up first. The best way to do this is through physical exercises like yoga, stretching, and aerobic exercise.
Some effective exercises for improving posture include:
- Head retraction exercises
- Neck side to side stretches
- Cat-cow stretches
- Downward facing dog
While these exercises have been highlighted for their role in improving posture, they are not the only ones that can help. These exercises are especially important for posture because they target the muscles that are most affected by posture; the core, neck, back, and legs. However, any exercise you can do regularly will have a positive impact on posture in one way or another. Besides, the benefits of exercise go beyond good posture and protect you from the potential consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways and posture just happens to be one of them. Good posture will not only protect you from short-term physical pain but will also benefit you in the long run. If you are experiencing body pain that you cannot explain, your posture may be the cause of it. Try correcting your posture and if the pain does not subside, see a qualified health provider (such as our awesome team at Rub).