The NYRR just posted an article from the experts at HSS about the benefits of using a standing desk versus siting and its impact on our posture. This is a popular topic recently and I am often asked to write notes for people looking to optimize their work stations. The benefits of improved posture can have a significant impact on our running form as well as helping to prevent injury or even limit everyday aches and pains at the back, neck and shoulders. Just like the experts at HSS, I agree that there is no one size fits all solution. Static positions, whether standing all day or sitting, can both have a negative impact. Ideally the body needs some movement to break up our static postures and allow fatigued muscles to recover. When possible, I recommend people have a work station with a high / low desk option so they can adopt different positions. If that is not realistic, sitting with good posture and taking intermittent “stretch breaks” is the best.
This good posture rule also applies to post workout recovery or down-time. If we sit all day watching TV in a low, soft couch or bent over texting on our phones, the hips, back and neck are all affected. When sitting, the most important thing is to have the hips supported enough so that they are above the height of the knees. If you are sitting in a chair that slopes down, is too soft or low, you may need to pad the rear so that your hips are elevated. This allows the back to assume a better position. When sitting for more than 20min, use a lumbar support (rolled up towel or jacket also does the job) just above the belt line to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. Keep the mouse and keyboard close enough so you don’t have to reach your arms out. Hold a phone at eye level or get a stand for a laptop to keep the head and neck level.
Maintaining good posture is essential but just as important are a few key exercises and stretches to facilitate good posture. This can be incorporated into a stretching routine at the gym, post track workout, or even added during breaks in your work day. (See Posture Essentials handout)
1) Foam roller at the upper back 1 –2 minutes: roll along the thoracic spine to allow you to sit / stand straighter. We shrink as we get older and get more rounded at the back (kyphosis) so this will help you look younger too ; )
2) Corner stretch : can also be done in a doorway to stretch out the pecs. Hold 10 seconds and do several times a day. These are some of the largest muscles in the body and used with our arm swinging while running.
3) Hip flexor stretch : this is ideally done off the edge of a table at the gym or the side of a bed / couch so that the lower back is supported. Very important for all runners or anyone who has walks upright, the psoas is a deep muscle at the back that makes us move forward with dashing speed and is so crucial to maintaining good posture.
4) Chin tucks : 10-20 x (tuck head straight back to feel stretch at base of neck, keeping gaze straight ahead) to counter the tension at our necks and forward head posture
If any of the stretches mentioned cause pain or if you have difficulty getting into an optimal posture without pain, you may benefit from acupuncture and physical therapy.