As I am sitting here writing right now, I pause — and realize how bad I am stressing out my body. I have been sitting at the computer for the last 2 hours without taking a break. Even worse, I am stooped over my laptop, with my shoulders turned forward and my neck bent down. To no surprise, I have pain in my neck, back and shoulders. It’s not a terrible pain, just one that’s aggravating enough to let me know that I need to improve some things. What makes it worse though — which may be an excuse, is that when I pull my neck and shoulders back and sit up straight, I am still not comfortable. After only a few minutes of holding a better posture, I gravitate back to the slump. I, like many other freelance writers that I have spoken with, have the same problems with posture. Even more ironic, is that we are all on these special personal plans to improve our posture, but really have not been successful in improving our habits. Because we are freelance writers, we are self-sufficient and know how to make things happen. Make staying healthy one of those priorities.
Of all people, I, as a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician should have good posture, but I fall victim to bad habits as well. Now that I am writing more and spending more time in front of the computer, I figured that it is probably a good idea to set a plan to improve my posture and stick with it. I have decided to share this plan with you in hopes that we can all save our backs and joints.
Here are simple steps that you can take to maintain your health as you continue to freelance:
- Improve your ergonomics. I highly suggest viewing this excellent website put together by UCLA.
- Take a 10 minute break every hour. This tip is non-negotiable and the most important of all the tips. Even if you can’t perfect your posture while sitting at your computer, if you take a 10 minute break every hour to get up, walk and stretch, you will work wonders for your spine, heart and overall health. Check out this article that supports that prolonged sitting increases your risk for all-cause mortality.
- Set a posture check alarm. Set an alarm on your computer for every 15 minutes or so as a health check reminder. What I mean by “posture check?” All you have to do is take 2-3 seconds to make sure that you are sitting up straight and and not slouched in your chair. If you get annoyed with alarms, check after each half page or page that you write. Whatever your method, make sure that you regularly check yourself. Remember, it takes 67 days for most people to develop a habit.
- Regularly exercise. Believe it or not, as you exercise your core and back with working out, you will begin to automatically sit up straight. In fact, it will be your preferred method of sitting. It’s kind of like — once you stop eating junk food, and revert to eating a super-sized meal, you will feel bad. Similarly, slouching will begin to feel abnormal for you if you take these steps now.
For what it’s worth — take your health seriously now, or you may have a difficult time writing comfortably in the future.