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June 25, 2014

WSJ: The importance of good posture while sitting at your desk

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on February 9, 2018.

The way you sit at work could have long-term health repercussions, but "good posture" is about more than throwing back your shoulders, writes Jeanne Whalen for the Wall Street Journal.

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Whalen notes that a growing body of evidence suggests that proper posture is connected to a wide variety of health benefits, including reduced back and joint pain and improved morale. According to Whalen, proper standing posture includes alignment of the ears over the shoulders, the shoulders over the hips, and the hips above the knees and ankles. It also involves even weight distribution.

But experts argue that proper seated posture is especially important and may deserve more attention because it can affect posture while walking and standing.

Specifically, people who spend a lot of time using electronic devices, such as computers or tablets, can develop kyphosis, in which a person's shoulders are hunched forward, causing their pectoral muscles to tighten and the spine to become misaligned. According to Whalen, many people have begun walking in this position as well.

To combat kyphosis, experts say that workers should stretch their pectoral muscles and work on strengthening the trapezius muscles in their upper back. They should also remember to align their ears and head over their shoulders.

Another problem associated with poor posture is lordosis, in which the lower spine curves inward and the backside is pushed backward. People who are overweight and women wearing high heels are most susceptible to this problem, according to Whalen.

But problems associated with poor posture are not just physical, writes Whalen.

In a recent study of 30 people receiving treatment for depression in Germany, half of the participants were asked to sit in a slouched position, and the other half were asked to sit in an upright position while attempting to recall a batch of negative and positive words. Individuals who were seated with poor posture were less able to remember the positive words. Another study found decreased energy levels after participants slouched for a period of time (Whalen, Wall Street Journal, 6/23).

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