While posture is a key aspect of nonverbal communication, it also has long-term implications to your spine and overall health.

The Health Risks of Bad Posture

Whether you’re typing away on a computer at work or binge-watching your ninth consecutive episode of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, slouching is something we’ve all been guilty of at some point or another. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. While the consequences of bad posture don’t always make themselves immediately known, habitual offenders can potentially experience some serious long-term health issues. Let’s take a look:

• According to a 2006 research paper written by The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, poor posture can  impede the ability of the lungs to expand.
• Chronic ailments in the spine may develop, such as disc degeneration and/or herniated discs.

The Psychology of Posture

Not only can your posture have profound implications for your physical well-being, but it also plays a role in your mental and emotional state of mind. Whether we consciously realize it or not, body language is one of the most prominent ways humans interact with each other.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D describes how a poor posture is perceived from others:

“Keep your back straight and your shoulders from lurching forward to add to the impression that you’re confident and in control of your feelings. On the other hand, if you want to appeal to someone’s sympathetic side, you can sag a little all around, because you will look more in need of help. A chronic sagging posture, though, tells other people that you don’t feel very good about yourself.”

In 2012, Harvard published a research paper titled “The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation”. The goal was to examine the effects of practicing good posture prior to situations that are typically perceived as intimidating or stressful, such as a job interview.

Researchers concluded that those who utilized good posture prior to these situations were “more positive, in control, and optimistic about the future, and to become more goal-oriented and likely to take action.”

How to Improve Your Posture

Many people have jobs that require them to work at a computer for a majority of the day. Here are a few steps to improve your posture:

• Evaluate your workspace
• Elbow measure – upper arms should be parallel to the spine, with elbows at  90 degree angle
• Thigh measure – Should be able to slide your fingers under your thigh at the  leading edge of the chair
• Keep both feet flat on the ground
• Sit on an additional pillow or cushion for lumbar support
• Eye level – Your gaze should be at the center of your computer screen. If you  are looking up or down at the screen, make an adjustment.
• Standing desk – Many workplaces are beginning to implement the use of  standing desks for their employees. There are many benefits to using a  standing desk, many of which are outlined here.
• No matter how comfortable you are at your desk, sitting for extended periods  of time is not good for your back (no matter how good your posture is).  Remember to stand, stretch and walk for a few minutes every hour.

• Exercise and use kinesthetic aids like foam rollers
• Lift with your legs (bend at the knees, not the waist)