You’re working hard to make sure you are healthy, but how good is your posture? We know it’s important, but how do you know what your posture really looks like? Grab a pen, a friend, and your phone camera, and let’s find out.
How do you feel about your posture?
- I don’t pay attention to it
- I try to sit well, and sometimes notice it
- I make a conscious effort to maintain good posture and have an ergonomic environment
How do you feel in the morning?
- I wake up in pain and/or still tired
- I wake up slightly groggy and/or stiff
- I wake up rested and pain free
How do you feel at the end of the day?
- I am in pain
- My back or neck can feel slightly stiff
- I feel comfortable and pain-free
What is your exercise routine?
- I don’t exercise
- I walk or jog at least three times per week
- I do cardio, weight training, and yoga or stretching or tai chi
Find a friend who can take a couple of pictures of you to help you assess your posture. Stand comfortably and have the friend take a picture from the front and from the side.
Looking at the Front picture
Is your head centered over your feet?
- No, it tilts strongly to one side
- It only tilts a little
- Yes, it is centered
Are your shoulders level?
- No, one is a lot higher
- One is slightly higher
- Yes, they are level
Are your arms evenly spaced from your body?
- No, the distances are very different
- The distances are slightly different
- Yes, they are evenly spaced
Do both thumbs face forward?
- No, both are shifted
- One is not completely forward
- Yes, they both face forward
Can you draw a straight line from the center of your feet to your nose?
- No, it’s a 30 degree angle or more
- It’s less than a 30 degree angle
- Yes, it’s straight
Looking at the Side picture
Can you draw a straight line from your ankle up through the hips, shoulder, and ear?
- No, it’s a very crooked line
- Only one element is out of the line (like my ear)
- Yes, it’s straight
Mostly 3’s: Great job! You think about your posture and it shows.
Mostly 2’s: You’re doing well, but there are still some improvements you can make.
Mostly 1’s: There’s room for improvement. Make sure you start small and incorporate one small posture change each week or month so that you can make it a habit and change your health and well-being.
Small Changes to Improve your Posture
Now that you know your posture strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to make small changes that will help you improve your posture. First, make changes to your environment. If your environment is properly set up, it will remind you to think about your posture and make it easier to get into the proper alignment.
When you are sitting
For most of us, the majority of our sitting time is spent in front of a computer. Make sure you set up your workstation to put your body in the best alignment possible.
- Put your computer monitor at eye-level. This might mean adding a small shelf to your desk to raise it up, or raising the height of your chair so that you are in line.
- Put your keyboard at elbow-height. This will allow you to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, keep your elbows close to your body, and keep your elbows, wrists, and hands in a straight line.
- Use a chair that supports your lower back. If your chair doesn’t come designed with lumbar support, you can add a small cushion.
- Position your chair so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees.
- Put your feet flat on the floor. If you had to raise your chair up to align your computer screen and keyboard, use a small footrest.
With your devices
Recent statistics say that 75% of people never shut their phones off and that 46% of us check our phone within 5 minutes of waking up. Whether you fit into either of those categories, you’ve seen the phenomenon called “text-neck” and maybe felt it yourself. The automatic way we use our devices can be very damaging for our posture, so we need to adjust our approach.
For your phone:
- When you are texting, scrolling, or reading on your phone, hold it up to eye-level. This will recenter your head over your shoulders where it’s weight can be properly supported, instead of increasing the weight and strain on your neck.
- When you are talking on the phone, use a headset. This eliminates the need to hold your phone between your ear and your shoulder.
For your tablet:
- When you are typing on your tablet, prop it at a 30 degree angle.
- When you are just reading, hold the tablet more perpendicular.
While you are sleeping
I demonstrated the best sleeping postures in this video. Check them out, and see how you can start adjusting your sleep position.
After changing your environment, begin to incorporate these three exercises, recommended by Dr. Sean Cailteux, to improve your posture.
- Chest Stretch: Start with the chest stretch because it will open the muscles in your chest that are often collapsed when we sit at a computer.
- YWTL: Take a break every 20 – 30 minutes throughout your day and do these poses and squats.
- Wall Angels: In the morning and at night, do a couple rounds of Wall Angels.
Put the odds in your favor by making these small changes to improve your posture. Which one are you going to start with? Let us know in the comments.