Watch Your Back: How to Have Good Posture All Day Long

November 16, 2017 Katie Grubb, PT, CEAS II


Most of us know it's important to sit properly at our desk to maintain good posture. But how many of us know it's also important to properly unload a dishwasher or carry a grocery bag? Posture isn't static—we're made to move, which means it's vital to maintain an aligned neutral posture not just while sitting, but while standing, sleeping and going through the motions of everyday life.

"When your body is aligned and balanced in a neutral posture, it minimizes stress on the bones, joints, muscles, tendons and nerves, and puts them at their best starting point to move and work," says Katie Grubb, PT, CEAS II, the injury prevention manager at St. Jude Medical Center. "If you can maintain good alignment in the course of your daily activities, you will be more comfortable and more productive with less effort. Over time, this reduces your risk of common wear-and-tear injuries of your muscles, tendons and joints so you are able to do more of the things you enjoy as you get older."

Poor posture can have several repercussions on our health, ranging from impaired organ function to low mood. As Katie says, "If you spend a lot of time in an awkward position, your muscles and tendons are strained, and they will adapt to that as their new resting position. You lose flexibility over time, making it more difficult to get into the neutral position. When poor posture is your starting position, everything you do from there requires more effort and puts you at higher risk of injury."

Want to have good posture around the clock? Try some of these posture tips for the following activities:




Eating breakfast

  • Sit at a table with a chair that gives you back support
  • Or stand at a counter where your food is about elbow height.
  • This promotes mindfulness – you are enjoying your food, not multi-tasking.
  • You start your day in a neutral position rather than sitting on the couch or in the car and struggling not to spill on yourself.


  • Adjust your seat so you can reach the pedals and your arms are in a relaxed position with your hands at “10 and 2.”
  • Use all the seat controls to make sure your back gets good support.
  • Adjust your mirrors to make sure you can see all your surroundings.You should be able to see your rear-view mirror by looking up with your eyes, not needing to lift your chin.
  • If you are on a long trip, stop and walk around to maximize comfort before you go back to driving.
  • A properly adjusted seat makes you more comfortable and reduces strain on your spine, arms and legs.
  • Taking breaks on long trips helps with comfort, stimulates circulation and keeps you more alert.

Carrying a bag

  • Don’t overload your bag.
  • If you have to move something heavy a long distance, use a cart and push it with your back straight.
  • Use a reusable shopping bag with handles over your shoulder instead of held in your hand. If you have two or more bags, balance the load over both shoulders and make more than one trip.
  • Using a cart requires much less effort than carrying, and your shoulders, neck and back will have less strain.
  • If you’re carrying everything on one side, you will not keep your back straight, and you will have a lot more muscular effort.Taking an extra trip takes a little more time, but you will have less discomfort.

Lunch break

  • If you sit through most of your work day, wear comfortable shoes and give yourself time during lunch to take a walk in a pleasant area. Enjoy being mobile, and focus on standing straight with your shoulders aligned over your hips.
  • Humans were made to walk—it’s our natural form of exercise, and it gets us where we need to go.You will increase your circulation and muscle tone and it will be easier for you to pay attention when you get back to work activities.

Grocery shopping

  • If you need to pick up an item from a low shelf, squat or kneel with your back straight. If you need to lean forward to balance, move at your hip joints, not at your back.
  • Keep the item close to your abdomen while lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.This minimizes the strain on your body.
  • Having the weight close to you is the most important way you can protect yourself when lifting. It is more important than avoiding twisting or placing your feet apart.

Loading or unloading the dishwasher

  • Bend with your knees and pull out the silverware basket and put it on the counter.Once the silverware is ready to load, fill the whole basket and put it into the dishwasher.
  • Rinse or scrape the dirty dishes and stack them on the counter before loading them.Pick up a few items together and bend your knees to lower yourself down to put them into the lower shelf. Don’t reach over and over again between the sink and the low shelf.
  • Going back and forth between the sink and the dishwasher for each item leads to repetitive twisting and bending.You probably are so focused on getting it done that you aren’t paying any attention to your position.
  • It’s easier to keep your body aligned if you break the job up into batches--all the silverware, all the plates and bowls, all the glasses, etc.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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