You may have heard that sitting too much is bad for your health, mainly because the lack of movement translates to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. To add insult to injury, it turns out that spending your day hunched over a computer also has major ramifications for your mental well-being.
The issue: Poor posture can put you in a lousy mood and make you feel more stressed and depressed.
“We’re a very forward-leaning society – we drive forward, lean forward, slouch over our desks all day,” says William Smith, an exercise physiologist in Morristown, New Jersey and co-author of Exercises for Perfect Posture. Perhaps you spend a lot of time craning your neck over your smartphone, as well.
There is no evidence proving that poor posture directly causes serious problems like clinical depression and anxiety. However, a number of studies have suggested that it may exacerbate the symptoms of these disorders. Even if your mental health is generally solid, there are good reasons to think that you’d be happier – and healthier – if you simply sat and stood up straighter.
Improving your posture can improve your emotional health:
- You’ll feel happier and more energetic
- You’ll get a confidence boost
- You’ll be less guarded
How to perfect your posture
For starters, pay attention to how you’re sitting and standing, and remember to engage your core as much as possible. If you have a desk job, make sure your computer, keyboard, and chair are ergonomically adjusted, says D’Ambroso. “I recommend getting up every 45 minutes to an hour to walk around, reposition your spine and improve circulation,” he adds.
Some simple moves can strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright. D’Ambroso likes scapula squeezes: Pull your arms back and pinch your shoulder blades whenever you feel the need to reposition yourself. He also suggests doing 5-10 press-ups (on elbows) every hour or two if possible, which promotes a gentle stretch in your lower spine. Any exercises that improve mobility in your hips and stability in your shoulder girdle are also useful, adds Smith. Try planks, back extensions (the “Superwoman” move) or overhead squats against a wall. And don’t forget about other mood-boosting activities, like meditation and mindfulness.