Poor Form: Fixing Your Posture with Exercise
That relaxed WFH setup is wreaking havoc on your back
So many of us find ourselves working from home these days. It certainly comes with a few advantages—early afternoon workouts, anyone? But there are also some serious and, at times, painful downsides. Spending the better part of your day hunched over your laptop at your dining table or sunken into the sofa doesn’t do a body good.
And a lot of us were already guilty of what the medical community calls the “cell phone slump” or “text neck.” By continually stooping down to look at screens, we put a lot of pressure on our spine which results in a near-permanent slouch. And poor posture does more damage than make you look shorter than you actually are. It turns out, it can cause you a lot of soreness and pain.
When we slouch, our heads come forward, which forces the shoulders to come forward. "This leads to jaw pains and headaches, and to shoulder and back pains," says Chicago-based chiropractic physician Dr. Richard Arrandt. "Additionally, if the mechanics of your spine are not aligning properly, it can affect your rib cage, which can damage your heart and lungs."
Like Dr. Arrandt mentioned, if we hunch too much, our lung capacity is impacted and inhibited. This means the other tissues in our bodies can't get as much oxygen which can lead to shortness of breath and fatigue—both when you’re training or simply throughout the day when you’re trying to work.
So now that you know that bad posture makes you look shorter, reduces your oxygen intake and limits your range of motion (putting you at risk for injury), you’re wondering what you can do to combat it, right? Thankfully there are relatively easy moves you can do that help lengthen the spine and provide blood and oxygen to underutilized muscles and tendons. According to Alex Zimmerman, director of Equinox’s Tier X personal training program, if you do these three to four times a week, you’ll be feeling stronger and standing taller.
Influenced by yoga’s Gomukhasana pose, this realigns your back and shoulders while opening up your chest. Bring your left arm behind your back, palm out. Raise and bend your right arm behind your head, reaching for your left hand. Clasp your fingers together (if you’re able to reach) and hold for three breaths. Then switch arms and repeat.
This move forces you to overcome the effect of gravity and a natural tendency to want to come forward during a squatting exercise due to weakened postural muscles (our core stability muscles). Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands under your chin. Squat as low as possible and return to the starting position. Repeat up to 12 times.
Plank With Row
Zimmerman says this is an excellent exercise for counterbalancing the effect of gravity while improving stability and function of the thoracic region—the longest region of the spine. Hold dumbbells or kettlebells in a plank position. Push one into the ground while lifting the other one off the ground, bringing hand toward your armpit. Focus on limiting any rotation of the hips. Repeat 5 times per side.
* Find Your Natural Posture: Stand against a wall, with your heels approximately six inches from the wall. Your back, butt and shoulders should touch the wall. This is the proper alignment you should aim for when standing.