One of the sad inevitabilities of a desk-based profession is that you will spend a lot of time slumped at a...desk.
Obviously this is more favourable than toiling down a coal mine, or onboard a deep sea lobster boat, or out on the far reaches of the Kazakh steppe, but what it does mean is that your posture is easily wrecked.
But not necessarily. Because while you can't help being sat down for eight hours a day, what you can help is how you do it. Here we break down five simple ways that you can improve your posture.
Your neck, back and shoulders will thank you.
1 | Roll Your Shoulders
Disarmingly simple, but so easy to neglect: shoulder rolls are a highly effective and highly manageable exercise to begin improving your posture with.
Do them throughout the day in sets of 10, while sitting down at your desk, at home or stood on the train (you might get some odd looks), just make sure you do them. They will help to loosen knots in your neck and strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades, which in turn will help to realign your neck and back.
2 | Start A Stretching Routine
One of the best ways to improve posture without spending hours a day rolling your arms and shoulders all over the place is to embark on a stretching routine. Even if you don't feel like throwing yourself into yoga, an easy sun salutation regime has the benefit of both stretching and strengthening everything from your shoulders, back, neck, abs and triceps to your hamstrings and calves.
Aim to perform the routine three times through, ideally first thing in the morning. It will help to warm up your muscles for that day of sitting ahead, and is also a solid alternative to meditation. If sitting in silence thinking about all the things you dislike about yourself isn't really your thing.
3 | Sit With Your Feet Flat
Another one that should be straight forward but is oft-forgotten is to always try and sit at your desk with your feet flat on the ground. If you're sat with legs crossed or your feet out on their sides, then it's likely you're putting unwanted pressure on your hips, lower back, pelvis and sciatic nerve - the one that runs from your spine to your feet - meaning you're greatly increasing your chances at long-term back pain and nerve damage.
4 | Find A Wall
If you want to improve your posture, then you're going to need to know what it feels like to actually have good posture, which is where this simple exercise comes into play.
Start by finding a blank wall, then stand with your heels and shoulder blades touching it. Remember to allow a slight natural arch in your back. Now draw your neck and head back enough so that they too are touching the wall. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then step away, full of the joys of your newly restored posture...sort of.
5 | Circle Your Arms
A step up from your beginner shoulder rolls, circling your arms delivers similar benefits, but also helps in strengthening your shoulders and traps. All you'll need to do to perform this exercise is to stand up straight before bring your arms up and out to shoulder height with your palms facing to the floor.
Now roll your arms clockwise, repeating for in between 30 seconds and one minute, before switching and repeating the exercise anti-clockwise.
Some Final Tips
While specific posture exercises are great at improving just that, it's also important that you maintain a (relatively) stringent all-body fitness routine. Exercises like the plank, pull-ups and arm rows are all great at improving strength and posture simultaneously.
It's also important that you stay active during the day. It's recommended that you take a break to stand up and walk around a bit for every half an hour sat down.
Be sure to keep your computer monitor high enough so that you're not peering down at it. And try and refrain from resting your forearms on your desk when you aren't typing.
Finally, just stand up a bit straighter.