Good posture: Don't sit up straight

GENEVIEVE ROTA
Last updated 13:07 23/04/2014
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DON'T SIT STRAIGHT: But don't go for the front-row-lean-forward either. We now know seated spine health is all about the lean back (good workout for your core too).

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Being straight up about posture

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Remember when you were a little kid in kindy, and your teacher would give a gold star to whoever could sit up the most straight? We'd all shoot up, backs stiff and straighter than a ruler, and be so very proud of ourselves for our impressive sitting skills.

Back then, it was drilled into us that sitting at a 90-degree angle is the way to go - it aligns your spine and sets you up for good posture that brings with it a slew of undeniable health benefits. Well, guess what? Turns out 90-degree angles aren't all they're cracked up to be.

It was first revealed way back in '06 that sitting straight actually wreaks havoc on our spine, but it's only in the last year that people have really started to pay attention. You can start to fix your skeletal health right now, just by following these steps:

Step 1. Come to terms with what bad posture means for your health

With most of us bound to suffer back pain at some point in our lives, it's a smart idea to try avoid the issue altogether.

You know what causes back pain? You got it, bad posture.

It's so tiring hearing it when you're a kid: "Stand up straight! Don't slouch! Shoulders back!". But it's for good reason, and you should probably thank your mum for her diligence with it.

Poor form can also be the source of the following issues

  • Headaches
  • Spinal issues
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Joint degeneration
  • Disc problems
  • Stretched ligaments
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Poor circulation

Step 2. Improve your posture (the right way)

You know the old drill, but it's time to get up to speed with the new version.

Rather than sitting at a 90-degree angle in your chair, aim to recline a little bit further. Research over the past few years has confirmed that sitting at an angle of 100-135 degrees is the best option for the spine, while sitting at 90 degrees is actually the worst. Sitting upright tightens the hip flexors to a dangerous point, while reclining slightly eases the back muscles and causes the least strain. You'll still be improving your posture, but with less negative impact on your body.

Ergonomic engineer Chris Adams created this handy infographic to show how people should sit at desks, based on the findings.

Want more ways to maintain good posture? Remembering to get up every 20 minutes to stretch your legs, change your focus and re-align your body will work wonders, but if you're the type who needs a reminder (aren't we all) a tool like the Lumo might become your new favourite gadget.

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Step 3. Reap the benefits

Good posture doesn't just make you look better, nuh-uh. It also:

  • Increases self-confidence and the way you are perceived by others
  • Reduces headaches
  • Improves circulation (good tip for Winter when you need all the warm blood flow you can get!)
  • Reduces back pain
  • Strengthens tummy muscles
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Improves your breathing, which has a flow-on effect on the functionality of your digestive system

Step 4. Keep your back in good shape

Because as you've now read, bad posture affects almost all areas of your body in a negative way. If you're concerned about your posture and how it's affecting your health, you can see an osteopath without a referral from your GP.

Aside from easing pain, osteopaths can also help improve flexibility, and joint motion, as well as provide you with advice on the ergonomics in your environment (ie, the placement and alignment of your desk/computer/chair/). 

You can also look to ballet-style workouts if you want to maintain good spinal health - studios are popping up around NZ. The popular exercise fuses Pilates, yoga and ballet and, with a strong focus on the core, assists in correcting posture.

- Popsugar

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