Nowadays many of us in the industrialized world spend way too much time sitting in the classroom, workplace, or living room watching TV. According to one study, Americans spend more than eight hours a day in front of televisions, computers, cellphones or other devices.
This is not what our bodies have been evolutionary designed to withstand. Our ancestors would spend the majority of their waking hours migrating, hunting, and gathering in order to find food and shelter to survive. They were always on their feet. But now with the rise of video games and technology we have even more distractions to decrease our time being physically active.
One result of too much time spent sitting is poor posture, which according to doctors and chiropractors has become somewhat of an epidemic in the United States. Another study even showed how poor body posture can affect confidence in your own thoughts. The importance of good posture for a healthy body and mind cannot be underestimated.
Computers are of course becoming one of the biggest contributors to bad sitting posture. I know this is certainly true for me, but how many of us can honestly relate to the first image above where our spine would be perfectly erect? More than likely – our bodies resemble the last two photos, where our bodies are slouched either forward or backward.
But we can’t avoid computers for the rest of our lives, they have become an integral part to modern society, so why not adapt to them in a way that optimizes good health? This doesn’t mean we have to blog less or stop going to work – it simply means we take some time to focus on building better computer posture.
First we need to become more conscious of how we sit throughout the day, then we can correct it and over time build it into an automatic habit.
Here are some tips you can apply to help correct your sitting posture and improve your physical and mental health:
1. I first recommend to watch this short video on The Alexander Technique, an incredibly powerful tool designed to improve body awareness, posture, and coordination. It was first developed by a Shakespearean actor between 1890-1900 in order to alleviate breathing problems and hoarseness. It is not widely used in various physical therapy facilities, dance schools and acting studios. Here is another video posted by the British Medical Journal in response to a study showing the positive effects of the Alexander Technique on pain and physical stress.
2. Of course having good sitting posture is a huge plus, but why not also try to actually be active while sitting on the computer? In fact, according to some studies physical inactivity is beginning to pose one of the biggest health risks to Americans.
So what types of things can you do while on your computer or watching TV? You’ll notice that even while sitting up straight you can still mobilize your head, neck, shoulders, hips, and legs. Try to see how many different stretches you can do while still sitting at your computer desk. Sometimes after long periods of time sitting down I simply continue what I am doing on the computer while standing up (no one says you have to sit down while surfing the web right?). In a standing up position you can get even more little exercises accomplished while still doing things on the computer. My only warning is to make sure you adjust the height level of your computer monitor so that your neck doesn’t have to bend down to see the screen.
3.Take a short 3-5 min. break from the computer every hour or so. Do some push ups or sit ups, take a lap around the office, or do more in depth stretching – but whatever you do make sure it is some sort of physical exercise.
Of course, like all good things, the hardest part is first being aware of what you are doing wrong. This means seeing where your body is building up physical stresses, which parts aren’t being properly attended to, and observing when your posture gets lazy. Consistency is key if you want to build these habits into your natural way of acting.
I recommend dedicating a whole week or two to posture awareness and see what you learn. Find your weak points and then work from there. For those who are already trained at applying mindfulness to everyday activities this should already be a familiar practice. For those who aren’t yet skilled in mindfulness, this may not be a bad place to start; the Alexander Technique after all is a technique of mindfulness.
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