Ask the Expert: Posture Tips
By Julia Doty
Q1. How heavy should your daily work/school/tote bag be?
Your daily bag should be as light as possible, preferably 2 to 3 pounds. It is important to keep your load light. Pre-plan your day and pack only what you need. You should also get rid of items in your bag that are not necessary as they will weigh you down.
Q2. How long should you be on your feet at one stretch during the day?
Being on your feet for about 30-45 minutes at a time is best. You should vary your tasks throughout the day and change positions. Your body is not designed to be in one position all day. If you can’t change positions, stretches need to be done every 30-45 minutes. You can walk around, go to the bathroom, change shoes, etc.
Q3. If you’re on your feet for long periods, what should you do to relieve pressure?
If you are on your feet for long periods, you should try to sit when you can. Also actions such as wiggling your toes, shifting weight back and forth from one foot to the other, rotating your ankles, flexing your feet and periodically taking off your shoes are ways to relieve the pressure from standing for long periods. Walking is better for you than just standing for long periods. Wearing comfortable shoes is helpful as well as the stretches mentioned above. If you are standing in one spot for a long time, standing on a carpet or an anti-fatigue mat may be beneficial since it can lessen the strain on your body.
Q4. What are the best stretches for someone, like a teacher, nurse, or hairdresser, who is on their feet all day?
In addition to the stretches mentioned above, squeezing your shoulder blades is a great technique for someone who is on their feet all day. A teacher, nurse, or hairdresser has their work in front of them so it is important to work on your posture and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Q5. For teachers or instructors: What should your posture be when teaching?
When teaching, shoulders should be relaxed and arms resting at their sides. If standing, weight should be equally distributed between both feet. Your body and/or head should be straight, not twisted. Work should be in front of the teacher and close so you do not need to reach out your arm to retrieve work. If writing on a board, your arm should be as close to the body as possible and avoid putting your arm over your head for long periods.
Q7. What heel size is best? Should I wear sneakers or leather shoes?
Heel sizes should be no more than two inches. An alternative to heels would be flats. It is important to wear shoes that are comfortable. Also, proper arch support and cushioning are important. If you can wear them, sneakers are highly recommended.
Q6. What are the benefits of alternative desks with posture balls and standing/walking desks? Are there any drawbacks?
Alternating positions throughout your day is critical to prevent stiffness and pain. Sit to stand desks are popular. The biggest thing is to move around throughout the day and make sure when you are using the desk that you are practicing proper ergonomics. If you are using a walking or standing desk, you need to sit at times. Also, if you are sitting all day, it is important to get up and move around. Posture balls are good for posture and core strength, but I recommend using a normal chair as well as the ball throughout the day.
Julia Doty is an occupational and hand therapist at the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. Julia has completed the Matheson Ergonomic Certification Program and offers complete ergonomic evaluations by appointment.