Friday, March 12, 2010

Why is it so hard to stop slouching?

I consider myself to have good posture. Not impeccable, but good. When I was growing up, my mother was always hassling my sister and I to stand up straight. Along with chewing with our mouths closed these were the main two things she just wouldn’t let up about. Whenever she saw us slouching she would pull our shoulders back and remind us to have good posture. I think this is partially because my mother is quite tall, and she didn’t want her to develop a habit of slouching to appear smaller as some people do to cope with their height. She wanted us to grow up to be proud, strong women who straighten their spines, walk with purpose, and look people in the eye when they talk to us. I think it is also partially that as a health practitioner, she knows the detriments of constant slouching that can train your muscles into weakness that eventually leads to hunchbacking in old age (it also compresses the vertebrae and disks in your back which makes you more prone to back pain in the future). And no one wants their child to become a hunch back when it is easily preventable.

I have always prized posture. Blame it on watching too many ballerina movies, or being entertained by childhood books telling cute little stories about how proper ladies can walk while balancing a pile of books upon their head. I always thought it was fun when I was younger to try to walk the entire house while balancing various objects on top of my head without them falling. I actually got to be quite good at it. People have actually complemented me on my posture, and strangers who don’t know my actual height (5’6”), have remarked that they thought I was much taller. This could be attributed to my tendency to wear very high heels, or to my sometimes aggressive personality. However, I prefer to think that it is because I carry myself with my shoulders back, and my head held high, my posture making me appear taller than I actually am.

Yet despite my prizing of posture, and my practice of it when walking around, when I am sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day, I find myself slouching over my keyboard, shoulders curved and that space between my shoulder blades aching by the end of the day. I noticed that this is starting to creep into my free time when I was hunched over my laptop on my couch at home the other night, and I was appalled to be slouching so dramatically.

Now, I have changed my chair to it’s most upright position, and whenever I consciously notice I am slouching I try to sit up as straight as possible for then next however long I can remember (I am sitting up very straight while writing this). But as soon as I relax and forget what I am doing, I go into slouch mode again.

And it’s not an uncommon problem, because the most difficult thing about trying to stop slouching is to know consciously that you are doing it. A cool gadget has been invented to remind you when you aren’t sitting up straight. It’s called the iPosture, and it’s a button sized little tool that is trained to vibrate each time you slouch to remind you to sit up straight. It can be worn as a necklace, stuck to skin, or attached to a bra strap. There are also exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in your back that keep you standing up straight. I know I need to start doing one of the two, because I ain’t no slouch.

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