Human beings do a few dozen things a day that are bad for them. They get that extra scoop of rice when one was enough. They take the escalator and leave the stairs untouched. They stay up late marathon-watching American Horror Stories on NetFlix. And they slump and slouch and treat their spine like it’s an endlessly renewable resource.
The simplest answer to eradicating these — and, indeed, most— unhealthy behaviors is this: Don’t do it anymore. But old habits die hard, and sometimes a little help is required to nudge them into the grave.
The Straight Goods
You’re on your own with the extra scoop of rice, escalator, and late night binges on Netflix, but there’s a load of suggestions for getting your posture on the straight and narrow. And it’s worth your while to consider them, because bad posture doesn’t just deliver aches and pains to your physical self. New research out of San Francisco State University, shows it also messes with your mood and energy levels.
It’s a list long enough to make anyone crumple in anxious despair over the ill effects their physical practices are wreaking on their health — a reaction that, alas, only worsens the scene. Better to replace the behaviors in question with some quick-fix, stand-tall alternatives.
• Carrying your purse or computer bag over the same shoulder every day.
• Change it up. By alternating the side of your body that lugs your load, you never allow one shoulder to suffer the ill effects of bearing the burden excessively. Better yet, use a back pack, which distributes the weight evenly on both shoulders.
• Sitting slumped in front of a computer screen for seven or eight hours a day.
• Be conscious of your posture. Training your body to sit upright in your office chair will eventually deliver you to a state in which a healthier sitting style is automatic. If it helps, picture an imaginary fishing line running up to the ceiling from the top of your head.
Get up and stretch and walk around at least once every hour. Your body could use the break.
Sitting on an ergonomically friendly office chair or even a balance ball while you work is another option. The posture-promoting designs naturally insist upon a healthier bearing by tilting the pelvis forward and shifting the shoulders back.
• Cradling a phone.
• Hold your phone in your hand while you use it, rather than squeezing it between your shoulder and ear. And alternate ears so as not to burden or favor one side over the other.
Or use headphones that won’t compromise your posture.
• Standing for long stretches of time
• Take occasional “movement breaks” from your time on your feet in the form of strolling bursts or even engaging in some light stretching. Invest in a pair of supportive shoes or orthotic insoles. That means, abandoning the heels; they throw the body’s gravity achingly off center.
Paying attention to your posture is important not only for the immediate relief that it’ll bless your throbbing neck and back muscles with, but from the longer-term physical damage, corrective therapies and expensive doctor’s visits.