They’re some of the most common sights across campus come fall: fellow students slouched down in their lecture hall chairs or doing their best Hunchback of Notre Dame impressions as they trod around burdened by their backpacks.
When the hectic school year routine sets in, proper posture can fall by the wayside. Lugging around that extra book is likely a priority over adjusting your backpack straps correctly. But with just a few tweaks, you’ll experience improved energy and less fatigue, as well as avoid future health problems.
To the core
So what does “good posture” look like? As it turns out, there’s no easy answer – it depends on the task you’re doing. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for neutral positioning that engages your core muscles. When you learn to engage your core muscles, you prevent the awkward, static sitting positioning that contributes to pain and discomfort in any kind of chair.
Michelle Discher, ergonomist at University Health Services, says growing evidence suggests that extended periods of sedentary behavior are associated with negative health outcomes like obesity and diabetes. So the answer is more motion, right? Not necessarily.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disorders, injuries or pain in your body’s joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves that support different parts of your body. MSDs can result from a sudden exertion or from making repetitive motions. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are two common MSDs.
Taking notes on good posture
A good chunk of your academic experience will occur in lecture halls both big and small. Whether you’re in Ag Hall or Henry Mall, we’ve got tips for the ideal way to sit:
- We’re going back to the core. Engage your abs versus pulling on your back muscles and ligaments. Change positions as often as you can.
- Know all the angles. The tendency is to lean forward and hunch our shoulders when sitting in lecture seats. Your hips should be at no greater than 90 degrees – parallel to the floor. Your feet and ankles should form another right angle and be flat on the floor as well.
- Despite their name, laptops present a different set of problems. “Unfortunately, a laptop wasn’t designed with ergonomic factors in mind,” says Discher. She encourages an upright sitting position with your back supported, shoulders relaxed, and wrists in a neutral position.
Out and about
Chances are a backpack is your constant companion in college. As the year goes on, more and more materials can add unnecessary weight to your bag. Consider what is and isn’t essential to bring to each class. For example, maybe it’s possible to leave some books at home and pick them up between classes instead of loading up all your materials before you leave home in the morning.
“The common sense approach is to carry only what is a priority and consider the style of backpack you are using,” says Discher.
Your smartphone is likely another mainstay of your day-to-day life. Having the world’s information at your fingertips is enticing, but too much screen-gazing and typing can lead to injury. Discher says repetitive strain injuries like “Blackberry thumb” are largely avoidable by utilizing your phone’s voice-to-text capability.
The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. By keeping these tips in mind, you can cross the finish line next spring with another year under your belt and good posture intact.
Written by Ben Vincent, UHS Web & Publications Editor