It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since the United States went on lockdown in March 2020. Although many frontline workers continued to work outside their homes during a global pandemic (and for that, we can’t thank them enough), many Americans were stuck inside, working from home. With too many hours spent working at a desk, and few moments actually stepping outside and moving their body, many folks have started to notice their posture declining. Below, we’ve asked an expert on the best ways to improve your posture after a very long year of working from home.
So, what exactly does proper posture actually look like?
According to Dr. Dustin Martinez, a Los Angeles-based chiropractic physician, proper posture can actually look different for everyone. “Ideally, you want your body parts to be stacked — for example, if you’re seated at your desk, you would ideally have your shoulders over your hips and your head resting over your shoulders, not out in front of you, rounded over your computer screen,” he explains.
Poor posture, on the other hand, “generally presents with rounded shoulders and anterior head carriage,” says Martinez. “A hyperextended low back would also be considered poor posture.” Considering many of us are spending too much time in front of our devices, with our heads rounded over screens, it’s easy to see why posture has gone south during the pandemic.
How might working from home affect your posture?
Working from home can affect your posture in multiple ways. First off, your “commute” from your bed to your desk has probably diminished significantly, compared to your normal commute time to the office. That results in less walking and less movement. Secondly, not everyone is actually working at a desk, in a supportive chair, while working from home. “I am seeing a lot of people develop rounded shoulders and uneven hips,” explains Martinez. “Work from home sometimes means working from the couch or kitchen bar stools, which doesn’t always allow for the best ergonomics.”
How should you avoid poor posture when working from home?
Although the world is beginning to open back up again, and more folks are headed back to their office, many of us are still working from home for the time being. To avoid poor posture during this time, Martinez suggests taking breaks in between work. “After a few hours on the computer, step away, take a break, let your eyes rest, and do something for yourself to counter the stress of working on a computer for ten hours,” he says. “Try working out —nothing is better for your body than exercise. Give your body the support it needs to work from home.”
To maintain good posture, you want to exercise the muscles in your back. “This will prevent you from slumping forward,” explains Martinez. “You will also want to exercise your core so that you prevent low back pain from sitting all day.”
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Exercise examples to prevent rounded shoulders and forward head carriage are rows, chin tucks and banded shoulder circles, according to Martinez. “To prevent low back pain from sitting all day, you’ll want to strengthen your core so that your body has the support,” he says. “Exercises like glute bridge, banded marches and banded side steps are great for this.”
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Products to improve poor posture
This is one of Martinez’s favorite things to improve posture. “You can just lay on it and it feels good,” he says. “Lying on a foam roller is an easy way to stretch your spine, open up your chest, and improve your posture.” Some great options include Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller for Exercise or the Gaiam Restore Muscle Massage Therapy Foam Roller.
2. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are an easy way to exercise while working from home (remember: more exercise equals a stronger back, which means better posture). “They come in different resistance levels so you have room for improvement, and they hardly take up any space in your house,” says Martinez.
3. Massage Gun
Martinez loves using a massage gun to relax tight muscles that are causing pain. “Find a quality brand that has a quiet motor, so you can use it while you’re on calls while working from home,” he suggests. “I recommend The Myo Co. Eaze ($250, themyocompany.com), Hyperice Hypervolt or Theragun”.
If you’ve noticed your posture looking a bit more slouchy than usual, it might be time to invest in a few posture-perfecting products to help strengthen and protect your back. Remember, the more you focus on improving your posture now, the fewer back problems you’ll have down the line. Because, as much as we love Dr. Martinez, no one wants to have to visit a chiropractor!
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