Do you feel stiff after working on your computer? Do you find yourself slumping, hunching, and with forward head posture trying to look at the screen?
Are you looking for ways to do what you need to do on the computer, without sacrificing your posture or your health? Are you curious about “stand up desks,” but not sure if they are worth the investment?
My clients and students often ask me, “What’s the best posture for sitting at the computer?” Keep reading to learn the 3 rules for computer posture, and how to make a few small changes with items you probably have around the house.
Whether you’re still working, partially retired, or completely retired, you likely still use a computer to stay connected to colleagues, family, friends, and the world.
Several of my students are using the computer for passion projects in retirement, like teaching classes, writing, or learning new skills online. And even if you think, “This will only take a minute,” you may end up sitting there longer than you thought you would.
It’s common knowledge these days that sitting with poor posture at the computer is bad for us. In our younger years, we may have gotten away with poor posture or uninterrupted hours working at a desk with few immediate side effects.
But as we age, too much sitting can lead to health problems like weight gain, hip and back pain, and tight muscles.
If we do all that sitting in poor form, we can experience all that plus a stiff, rounded upper back, pain, impaired breathing, pinched nerves, and worse.
The most important thing about sitting at the computer is that it should not be your primary activity. If you are still working at an office job, sitting at a desk for eight hours may be your current reality.
The American Heart Association has come up with a list of activities that you can try to incorporate to move more at work. Additionally, make sure you are walking, stretching, and moving in your non-work hours.
If your work does not require you to be on the computer, keep it to a minimum and take frequent breaks. Remember that when you retire, your #1 job is your health!
The bottom line is, poor posture at the computer makes us look old, feel old, and maybe even die sooner. Yikes! Let’s get right into what you can do about it!
When you do sit at the computer, angle your body so that your knees are lower than your hips. This helps your pelvis stay in anterior tilt and your lumbar spine maintain its neutral curve. Evaluate your chairs and cushions to find an ideal fit.
Many retired people have traded in their desktop computer for a more portable laptop or tablet. Laptop keyboards and mice are small. To use the keyboard and especially a laptop trackpad, your arms turn inward. This makes your shoulders roll forward and can lead to problems in the rotator cuff.
Invest in a separate, full-size keyboard and mouse. Your keyboard and mouse should be an elbow level when your arms are at your sides. Make sure you aren’t in a sideways tilt to reach the mouse.
Whether you have a laptop or desktop, don’t miss an important step. Set up your monitor so that it is at eye level. Use books, boxes, or whatever you have to ensure that you do not strain your neck while looking down.
“Stand up desks” are gaining popularity, because people know that sitting in one position for a long time isn’t good for them. Standing in one spot isn’t so great either.
Sitting on the floor is a great option for our bodies after 60 because it leads to more flexible hips, stronger legs, and better balance when we get up and down off the floor.
For several months, I researched many stand-up desk options. I was looking for a way to alternate between a chair, the floor, and standing. A colleague finally gave me the idea that solved my dilemma.
Check out this video to see a “behind the scenes” tour of my computer set-up, and how I use my ironing board to vary my computer work posture.
No matter how mindful we are with our computer posture, it takes a toll on our posture and joints. In general, the front of the body gets tighter and shorter. The back of the body gets weaker.
These are the same challenges that we face during the aging process. Please trust me that it’s absolutely essential and feasible to counter these posture tendencies – or they will get worse!
You can do this with a regular yoga and exercise practice. Check out the Sixty and me yoga videos!
You can also do it at home, in regular clothes, throughout the day. Here are a few exercises to target your computer posture muscles.
The important hip flexor muscles connect our legs to our spine. They attach not only to the legs and pelvis, but all the way up to our lumbar vertebrae and into our diaphragm (breathing muscle). They get short when we sit too much. Try this quick hip flexor stretch to help you straighten up when you stand up.
While working on the computer, our upper backs can tend to get stiff and rounded. You know what this looks like! You can reverse it with the steps explained here.
Due to working on the keyboard (even if it’s full-size), our shoulders will tend to roll inward and forward. That can be fixed as well.
There are TONS of posture gadgets out there. (At this moment, there are 96,100,000 Google results for “posture device.”) They may work for your individual needs, or they may not.
I use a simple yoga belt posture brace to maintain better computer posture, and the good news is, you can make one yourself.
How do you keep from slumping at the computer? Do you have any favorite strategies to remind you to take breaks and keep moving? What is your best variation to work on the computer without sitting in a chair? Please share with our community of women.