Hunching over personal electronics can wreak havoc on your posture. The tendency to slouch forward is made even worse by the popularity of laptops, tablets, and technology that encourages people to look down, says Paul Drew, DPT, author of Red Carpet Posture.
“Your head comes down and forward and your shoulders round,” he explains. “Eventually, the muscles in the front of the shoulders become tighter and shorter and the muscles in the back become stretched and weaker.” Besides making you look slouchy, this postural habit can lead to upper-and lower-back pain and tension headaches.
One of the tricks, of course, is noticing when your posture has degraded. Once you do, you can make conscious adjustments: “Hold your shoulders back and pull your bellybutton in toward your spine,” Drew suggests. “If you can remind yourself to do that, you’ve won half the battle.”
Drew also recommends practicing the following exercises at regular intervals throughout the day:
Orange Juice Squeeze
1. While seated with both feet flat on the floor, lengthen your spine and engage your abdominals by pulling your bellybutton in toward your spine.
2. Relax your shoulders.
3. Pretend you have an orange between your shoulder blades. Imagine squeezing it by bringing your shoulder blades down and back. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times. Continue to maintain an upright posture and engage your abs.
4. Perform one set of five squeezes every couple of hours.
Corner Chest-and-Shoulder Stretch
1. Stand facing a corner in a neutral posture with abdominals engaged. Place both hands and forearms on each wall of the corner in a “stick ’em up” position, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and slightly lower than your shoulders.
2. Gently pull your shoulders down while pressing your forearms against the walls, allowing your shoulder blades to come together.
3. Step your right foot forward and toward the corner, increasing the stretch. Take three to five breaths. Then step your right foot back.
4. Repeat, stepping forward with your left foot.
5. Perform up to three times throughout the day.