Overcome Your Sedentary Lifestyle
(A Practical Guide to Improving Health, Fitness, and Well-being for Desk Dwellers and Couch Potatoes)
By PJ Sharon
5 ways to Improve Posture
By PJ Sharon
Thank you for hosting me today. I’m happy to be here to share some healthy posture tips with you and your readers.
Through my work as a physical therapist assistant, massage therapist, personal trainer, and yoga instructor, I’ve seen the results of poor posture and the muscle imbalances inherent in being a “chronic sitter”. Neck and back pain, numbness and tingling in the hands due to carpal tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome, tendonitis of the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder due to repetitive strain, and a host of other health problems can be attributed to poor posture and prolonged sitting. Living with this type of chronic pain makes it nearly impossible to consistently function at a high level, accomplish the goals we set for ourselves, or achieve our dreams.
The good news is that these problems, if caught early and treated properly, can be alleviated with a little prevention, proper workstation set-up, and simple exercises. As such, I’m committed to helping people overcome their sedentary lifestyles in this age of digital overload. Before I get to the fun stuff, let me explain the mechanics of why good posture is so important.
Without being too technical, we need to understand that the body is a finely tuned machine which requires balance to function optimally. When all is in correct working order, the muscles are balanced, the fascia (connective tissue) is without restriction, and the spine remains in proper alignment. We call this neutral posture. Imagine though, if you’re sitting all day in front of a computer screen—a position we are clearly not made to remain in for extended periods of time. The weight of our head on our shoulders—as our eyes focus on the task before us—draws us slightly forward. Our natural inclination is to keep our eyes level and steady on our screen, so as we allow our shoulders to round, the head to tilt back, and the chin to jut out, our spinal alignment is compromised all the way down to our tailbone. No more neutral position.
This loss of structure—over time—is the perfect set up for chronic pain to develop.
Clearly the message is: Fix your posture!
I know…I’m over simplifying the problem and realize it’s an uphill battle, but one well worth fighting. Consider this. Your head weighs between eight and twelve pounds (depending on how big your brain is or how thick-headed you are). Relatively, it’s about as big as a bowling ball. If you hold a ten pound bowling ball in close to your chest, it doesn’t weigh that much, but extend it six or eight-inches out in front of you and try to hold it there, and you’ll get an idea of how much harder your neck and upper back muscles have to work to keep your head on your shoulders when you aren’t in good alignment.
Understanding how the body works and moves is essential in correcting bad habits. We can learn to protect ourselves by changing how we move, moderating the stresses we place on our bodies, and being mindful of maintaining a neutral spine whenever possible. This awareness alone will go a long way toward keeping you pain free and healthy for the duration of your sitting career.
So here are my five tips for improving your posture.
Know where good posture is. If awareness is half the battle, education is the other half. Being mindful and checking in frequently will only get you so far if you don’t know what correct posture feels like. When sitting, your ears should line up over your shoulders and your shoulders should line up over your hips. If you aren’t sure if you are in correct posture, stand up against a wall with head, shoulder blades and hips touching, then step away and try to maintain it.
Move and stretch frequently. Okay, Captain Obvious, you say. So why don’t we do it? We live in our heads—that’s why. When we’re focused on a task, we forget to move. Time passes and we aren’t aware of our bodies until they are screaming for relief hours after we’ve sat down. Set a timer, download a stop watch app, or simply set time limits for your sitting activities. Check the clock when you sit down and make a conscious decision to take stretch breaks every half hour. Yes! Every 30 minutes! It really only takes five minutes or less to perform a few posture fixers like shoulder shrugs and rolls, neck range of motion exercises, or hip flexor stretches.
Modify your work station. If you’re in pain and suffering, the first thing you need to look at is your work set up. Are your desk, chair, computer, keyboard and mouse in the right position or are you working on your laptop and being inhaled by your couch? Google ERGONOMICS and check out the parameters of proper work station set-up. Small changes can have amazing results. A wrist rest, foot support, or even improved lighting can make a difference. Don’t put this off! Check to make sure you aren’t harming yourself when a simple correction will fix the problem. I talk about this at length in my book, OVERCOME your SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE.
Strengthen your postural muscles. I know this seems like another obvious fix, but let’s face it, if you aren’t an “exercise person,” the mention of lifting weights or doing a few push-ups might send you into eye rolling mode. The truth is, there are a few very simple—no weights required—exercises that can make a huge difference.
Bank Robber Stretch
Bicep and Pectoral Stretch
Foam Roller- You can pick up a foam roller at most sporting goods stores these days for less than $20. There are a ton of exercises and treatment techniques you can do to alleviate tight muscles and relieve pain caused by trigger points, but one of my favorite uses is what I call the “chest opener”. Simply lie on the foam roller the long way so that your entire spine and head are supported. You may need to place a small towel under your sacrum for comfort. Allow your arms to rest out to the sides on the floor with palms face up. This stretch opens the chest and increases extension of your thoracic vertebrae, which tend to lose mobility with prolonged sitting and forward head/round shoulder posture. Relax here for about five minutes and do this several times per week.
Is a sedentary lifestyle killing you? Are you gaining weight, developing neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems, or other health issues that are interfering with your ability to achieve your goals or live life to the fullest?
Sedentary Lifestyle Syndrome (SLS) ™ is one of the fastest growing health care crises of our time. In this digital age of techno-overload, where most of our waking hours are spent sitting, or otherwise “connected” to some device, we are quickly realizing the negative effects. If you can answer yes to the following questions, you may be suffering from SLS.
· Do you sit for at least 4-6 hours per day without adequate breaks?
· Have you gained significant weight from lack of exercise and poor nutrition?
· Do you suffer from headaches, fatigue, listlessness, and lack of motivation?
· Have you been diagnosed with one or more health issues aggravated by prolonged sitting and lack of movement? (ie: Obesity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome)
Overcome Your Sedentary Lifestyle is the practical guide you need. Author and Holistic Health Care professional, PJ Sharon, includes tips to keep you healthy—even if sitting is in your job description. Ms. Sharon offers easy to implement solutions for proper work station set-up, exercises for injury prevention and treatment, and a practical plan for self-care success—whether you’re perched on the couch, or on the way to fulfilling your dreams.
Isn’t it time for you to stand up for your life?
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-9969289-0-8
Print ISBN-13: 978-1519110503
Amazon Buy Link
In addition to authoring award winning young adult novels, PJ Sharon owns ABSolute Fitness and Therapeutic Bodywork, a private practice massage therapy and personal training business in East Granby, CT. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry, Ms. Sharon offers a multidisciplinary approach to wellness.
As a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), Massage Therapist (LMT), Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (CPFT), and Yoga Instructor, Ms. Sharon brings a wealth of knowledge to her clients and workshops. A graduate of Springfield Technical Community College and the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, Ms. Sharon also holds certifications as a trainer through the NFPT and teaches therapeutic yoga. A Black Belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, and former figure skating and power skating instructor, Ms. Sharon’s passion for holistic health and healing comes through in her writing—whether she is penning romantic and hopeful stories for teens, or sharing her wisdom and experience with clients and workshop attendees.
When she’s not writing, or spreading the love through her practice, she can be found kayaking in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and renovating an old farmhouse with the love of her life.
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