Your tendency: To plop down on the floor with boxes, paper, ribbons, scissors, and tape spread all around and become a one-woman wrapping machine. This can cause you to hunch over or suddenly stretch for an out-of-reach ribbon, leading to tension and strain in the neck and the shoulders and eventual stiffness or soreness.
The better way: To sit in a chair at a table, with your abdomen pulled in, your stomach muscles engaged, and your shoulders back and down. Keep all materials within easy reach to avoid awkward stretches. If only the floor will do, sit on a firm pillow or a folded blanket to raise your hips higher than your knees, relieving pressure on the lower back.
2 of 6James Merrell
Avoid Bad Posture When You're Cooking
Your tendency: To start your cooking marathon by clearing off the counter and quickly starting to chop. But be aware that a counter too high or too low for your height can force you to hunch over, straining the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.
The better way: To check the height of the counter before you slice and dice. Put your arms at your sides and bend your elbows to 90 degrees. The surface should be no more than a few inches below your hands. If it’s too low, stack cutting boards; if it’s too high, stand on a sturdy stool. To lessen back strain, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, and knees soft.
3 of 6James Merrell
Avoid Bad Posture When Youre on the Road
Your tendency: To slump in your seat―be it on a plane or a train or in a car. But this can overstretch muscles in the upper back and cause the chest to cave in, which encourages shallow breathing. You may also sit for hours on end without taking a stretching break. But too much time in one position can increase the risk of blood clots by hampering circulation.
The better way: To sit with your legs uncrossed, your feet flat on the floor, and your spine straight. Place a small pillow behind your lower back to support it without exaggerating the natural curve. Sit on a folded blanket or a pillow to keep your knees slightly lower than your hips and relieve pressure on your lower back. At least once an hour, take a minute to get up and stretch.
4 of 6James Merrell
Avoid Bad Posture When You're on the Phone
Your tendency: To cradle the phone between your neck and shoulders while jotting down information. But all that time with your head cocked and your shoulders scrunched can lead to strained muscles. Like many people, you may use an iron grip on the phone, and this can cause tension in your hand that can send numbness or shooting pains up your arm to your neck.
The better way: To use a headset attachment so you can talk hands-free. All other times, hold the handset to your ear, keeping your shoulders down and even and your head and neck straight, not tilted to one side or the other. Hold the phone with a light, easy grasp, and switch hands after about ten minutes.
5 of 6James Merrell
Avoid Bad Posture When You’re Juggling Luggage
Your tendency: To overload yourself by hanging a heavy bag on your shoulder, toting one in your hand, and dragging another behind you. But narrow and slippery straps on your shoulders or in your hands can tense and fatigue muscles and cut off circulation. Simultaneously pulling a large bag can strain the shoulders and the back by yanking the joints out of line.
The better way: To redistribute the weight by clipping the shoulder bag onto the wheeled bag. Then sling small bags across your body, messenger-style, so your hands stay free. If your heavy luggage doesn’t have wheels, rent a cart at the airport or bring a collapsible one. And try pushing wheeled bags in front of you, like a grocery cart, for more control and better body alignment.
6 of 6James Merrell
Avoid Bad Posture When Youre at a Party
Your tendency: To step out in a pair of high heels, even though heels higher than two inches change the alignment of your ankles, knees, and hips. The pelvis juts forward, the lower back arches, and the calf muscles and the Achilles tendons get unnaturally shortened. When you’re tired, you may shift your weight onto one leg, which corkscrews the head, the neck, and the spine.
The better way: To party in a pretty pair of ballet flats or some other comfortable low-heeled shoes. But if you love the look of heels, opt for sturdy ones that are between one and two inches high. Fight fatigue by balancing your weight evenly on both feet, keeping your knees unlocked and your belly button pulled in toward your spine.