I have terrible posture. I sit for at least 10 hours a day. By 3 p.m., my torso assumes the shape of a C, and by 11 p.m., the muscles in my back are exhausted and fidgety.
According to the latest studies, my posture will cause me to die 2 years sooner, will double my risk of heart disease, will give me back issues by age 45 -- and if that wasn’t enough, studies say poor posture makes you look fatter and less confident.
I’ve tried to change my posture over the years, but “just sit up straighter!” hasn’t worked. So I went hunting for tools to help me get straighter and look more confident. Hopefully they’re helpful to any freelancer who sits long hours and relies heavily on first impressions to land clients:
1. Strengthen your core muscles
The muscles responsible for good posture are mainly in your core and in the small of your back. Try these simple exercises in the morning before you sit in your office chair:
A. Plank hold. This works out the muscles in your core and lower back.
B. Crunches. This excercises your abdominals.
C. Back extensions. This exercises the muscles in your lower and upper back.
2. Use Lumo Lift
I came across this space-age device recently and think it’s a great way to remind yourself to stand up straight. Lumo Lift is a posture-correction device that clips onto your shirt or (if you prefer it to be out-of-sight) on your bra or undershirt.
The Lumo Lift device is worn anywhere around your chest. When you're slouching, it will vibrate as a reminder to stand up straighter. It also tracks your steps and how many calories you burn. It costs $79, but if you’re the type of person who frequently drifts into poor posture unconsciously, this seems like a cool option.
3. Get a posture coach
Yes, there’s such a thing as a posture coach. While spending $65-100/session for a few meetings with a posture coach might seem a bit extreme, a posture coach will be able to tell you exactly how you sit, what to do about it, and provide special exercises for your particular style of slouching.
Try to find a posture coach trained in the Alexander Technique, which as far as I can tell, is the most popular and effective method and has been proven to reduce stiffness and improve muscle responsiveness. The American Society for the Alexander Technique has a giant list of coaches here.
4. Rock back and forth (or dance) as you sit
Studies show that simply rocking back and forth in your chair can improve circulation, gently stretch your back and hip muscles, and prevent slouching. (It also makes you happier.)
I recommend putting on your favorite music while working and gently dancing to the music. You can also try to buy a special rocking kneeling chair like the one below, which both corrects the classic lean-forward slouching problem and allows you to rock back and forth easily.
Rocking kneeling chair.
I'll admit this guy looks a bit odd, but that's why you work in a home office, right?
5. Interrupt your work once every 30 minutes
You can solve issues of both poor circulation and muscle tension when you stand up every thirty minutes, walk around, or do some simple lunges and stretches. Studies show that you’ll also be more productive if you do short 25-35 minute bursts of work followed by short breaks (popularized by the Pomodoro Technique).
In fact, get up right now (stop reading) and go look out your window. Then set a Pomodoro timer and get back to work!
Freelancers, did your parents tell you to stand up straight? (Did you listen?)