Good news: There’s one thing you could do right in this very moment to look better. Better news: It has nothing to do with taking a shower or changing out of those sweatpants. It’s simply paying attention to your posture. If you’ve been working from home during the pandemic, your body’s alignment has, like your social life, very likely been a casualty of the past year. Those endless days tapping on your laptop and just generally maintaining stagnant movement patterns have added up.
The good news? There are some easy things you can do to fight off your inner hunchback right this moment. There’s no reason to put this off: Better posture will unlock everything from reduced aches and pains to deeper breathing and better digestion.
“When your body is the most aligned, your joints and your muscles feel the most happy,” says Cassandra Hill, a doctor of physical therapy at Fox Rehabilitation in Maryland. It starts with simply noticing your body: “If you’re cognizant of what the good or natural alignment is of your body, then chances are you’ll be more mindful of it as you’re doing everyday activities.”
Standing up straight will also, of course, make you come off as just a bit more confident. Your clothes will hang a little better. You won’t be any taller, but you’ll certainly look taller. So GQ talked the experts to get five smart moves for straighter, less ache-y posture.
1. Warm-up Before Work
Yes, seriously, and not like, practicing what you’re going to Slack your boss. Before posting up at your computer for the day, move your body for a bit by taking a walk or hitting up a quick YouTube yoga glass, suggests Dr. Rahul Shah, MD, Board Certified Orthopedic Spine & Neck Surgeon. “This can include any light aerobic activity for 20 to 30 minutes,” he says. “By engaging in aerobic activity, the body pumps blood to all of the muscles and thus increases their ‘resilience’ to the battle of work and sitting in more cramped quarters.” In other words, waking up your muscles will make you aware of your body’s shape.
2. Take a Second Look at Your Desk Setup
Keyword here: Desk. If you’re sitting on a couch or lying in bed, you’re obviously not doing your body any favors. In fact, “this is one of the leading causes of tightness and postural pain since the pandemic started,” says doctor of physical therapy Leada Malek.
Malek’s top tips for a Goldilocks screen set-up include having the top of your screen or monitor within 5 degrees of eye-level to you and the keyboard height that allows wrists to rest in neutral and elbows are at 90 degrees, and shoulders relaxed. “Be close enough to the screen so that your head and neck don’t have to poke forward to see the screen.”
Of course, your chair matters, too. If you’re seated, hunt for a chair that fills the space in your lower back for an upright position.
3. Take Regular Work Breaks
And no, sitting in the same chair while you do some online shopping doesn’t count.
No position is too good for too long, whether you’re sitting at your desk or resting on the couch, says Hill. “Listen to the infinite wisdom of your body,” she adds. “If you’re actually paying attention, it’s likely telling you where you need to be more mindful of our posture during varying parts of the day.”
A cramp or pain like a charley horse is a good sign you needed to move an hour ago. Moving frequently throughout the day could be a one-two punch for your productivity and your posture.
Shah recommends breaks every 40 minutes or so. “This will allow you to use different muscles and avoid overuse injury and fatigue related injury from being in one posture for prolonged periods of time,” he says.
4. Don’t Fall for Posture-Fixing Gimmicks
You’ve maybe been targeted with adds for all manner of slings and straps promising that they can fix your posture woes immediately. A slim device that slips over your shoulders—seems great, right? Don’t fall for it, cautions Hill. “If you want improved posture, you have to do neuromuscular reeducation within your own body to achieve it,” she says. “The work has to come within you. While the tech devices could be cool—and profitable—I just don’t believe that it’s something that’s sustainable or translates into something that is actually functional.”
5. Lift, Bro
You knew it was coming. In addition to causing discomfort, weak and tight muscles could be the cause for your neanderthal posture. A big source of the benefit from lifting comes from developing a greater awareness of your body. If you’re squatting and deadlifting, you’ve got to consider your form, and we bet once you start thinking about you alignment you won’t be able to stop.
Certain exercises specially strengthen the muscles that keep everything lined up. Hill specifically recommends dumbbell rows. “Really focus on the muscles that pull your shoulder blades down and back.” Then keep that focus when you’re banging out emails later that day.
6 Ways to Fight Those Work-From-Home Aches
Because spending all day at home is weirdly hard on the body.
Originally Appeared on GQ