Sit up and listen: a physio therapist shows us how to achieve better posture at work

Graham Smith, a seasoned physio and co-founder of Move To Live, spends his days correcting the effects of bad posture (amongst other things). “It’s not until someone’s bearings in the workplace stop them from being able to do the things they love outside of the workplace that they come to see me,” he admits. Championing workplace training to help encourage better habits at work — where most of us spend at least eight hours a day — we spoke to Smith about why it’s imperative to strive for better posture.

1. What is your definition of ‘posture’? Posture is how we hold ourselves upright against gravity. Good posture is doing this in the most efficient way, poor posture is everything else.

2. How many people have perfect posture? Very few! The perfect posture is the one that you don’t spend too much time in. Unfortunately, we are spending a lot of time these days in the seated position. You’ve got to change it up. Our joints are healthiest when we are loading and unloading them so constant adjustments of posture are important in striving for perfection.

3. What are some of the ramifications of bad posture over a long period of time? Poor posture makes you weaker, slower and less energetic. Sitting for long periods actually effects your nervous system. Sitting is saying to your body “slow down, rest, sleep” but our jobs are saying “work, rush, stay awake” — these conflicting messages are really tough on our system. This is why people come to us and associate postural pains or headaches with ‘stress’, not poor posture from working in seated positions for extended periods of time.

4. What is the single worst mistake someone can make when sitting at their desk all day? Sitting at your desk all day. Any single sitting position should be held for no longer than 30 seconds.

5. Can you describe what you call ‘ground zero’ or rather a neutral, harm-free sitting posture? Ground zero is our best gravity fighting position. It is a reference point for us to return to each time we notice that gravity is winning. It’s where all our joints and tissues are balanced and working equally hard to spread the load and share the work.

6. What is your opinion on standing desks? What should people look out for if using one? Do it! But it’s not as easy as just getting a standing workstation. Standing is a skill seldom taught and for some, it’s very, very tough to do well. We think standing desks are great and if available, then lucky you. We teach active standing which involves increasing awareness and muscle activation in some important muscles around your hip and pelvis.

7. What are your top tips for improving posture? Awareness is key. You must learn what good and bad feels like, so you can adjust. Changing a lifetime of habits takes time. Take the small wins, we want progress not perfection.

8. Is it ever too late to rectify bad posture? Sadly, yes. After a lifetime of punishment from old mate gravity, our bodies actually structurally change. But this doesn’t mean we can’t manage pain and tightness. With the right advice and guidance, we can make some improvements and get the best out of what you have.

9. What about our phones? Do they encourage bad posture too? Our world is literally in front of us. We are encouraged daily to return to the foetal position by devices, computers, transport and TV.  We need to balance all of these flexed positions out with some sustained extension (like standing, walking and some forms of exercise).

10. Are there any forms of exercise that are particularly good for correcting bad posture/encouraging good posture? Any exercise that raises our body awareness and control. The muscles responsible for our posture are most responsive to slow, controlled and deliberate movements. We think Pilates and Yoga are a great place to start, take learnings from these into more functional exercises when you can.

Graham and his team are available for in-office consultations as well as all your physio needs. Click here or call (09) 379 6333 to book.

Move to Live

24 Exmouth St
Eden Terrace
Auckland

(09) 379 6333

www.movetolive.co.nz

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