Season 1, Episode 1

Is Your Chair Ruining Your Posture? 

 We take a look at your what good posture really means, and if your chair is really up to the job of keeping you in tip-top shape.

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About This Episode

Is your chair ruining your posture?

With so many of us sat working all day, it’s no wonder that our chairs can have a big impact on our posture. How long do you spend each day sitting? A lot, I bet! I wanted to talk to an expert on chairs and ergonomics about how we can help ourselves, and look after ourselves. So I hooked up with an expert in her field, Alison Heller-Ono. Alison has courses about ergonomics, homeworking, and even trains people on chair selection and fit, so we’re in safe hands here. Be sure to check out Alison’s online courses if you need to learn any ergonomics, I can highly recommend her.

Is your chair ruining your posture

Alison Heller-Ono is President and CEO of Worksite International, an ergonomics consulting firm providing onsite and online ergonomics services and training. Alison is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist and Physical Therapist, and a global speaker on ergonomics – a renowned expert in her field!

Transcript

James Crow
Hi everybody, I’m James from Posture Stars, and today we’ll be talking with Alison Heller-Ono, who’s president and CEO of Worksite International Incorporated, which is an ergonomics consulting firm providing on site and online ergonomics services and training. Alison is a Board Certified Professional ergonomist and a physical therapist. Her company recently launched its online ergonomics training academy for employee and professional development. And Alison is also a global speaker on ergonomics, and a renowned expert in her field. Good day to you, Alison.

Alison Heller-Ono
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, James, how are you?

James Crow
I’m very well, thank you. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to you and to all our listeners, depending on where you are in the world. That is right, you’re over in the east coast of America, and I’m in the north of England. And we’re bringing this podcast to everybody with the miracle that is the internet and a bit of wizardy pokery. Let’s ask our first three questions. My first question I will ask is what is posture? Then I will ask you, what do you do to help people’s posture? And finally, I’ll ask if you could give one simple piece of posture advice for our listeners right now. What would that be? So Alison, what is posture?

Alison Heller-Ono
Well, that’s such a great question, James. And it probably means a lot of different things to each person. You know, in my experience, posture is the body’s efficient alignment of the musculoskeletal system. So your muscles and your bones and joints. It’s really a balance between the muscles and joints, in my opinion. So one thing I want to point out is that posture is really how humans support themselves. You know, the term Homo Erectus? Have you heard that?

James Crow
I’m familiar with the term Homo Erectus, yes.

Alison Heller-Ono
So literally, that’s the erect man, so to speak. Yes. And so that, that is referencing posture, everybody. So there are several different types of postures, in my opinion. So for example, good posture, or neutral posture, there’s bad posture, which might be awkward or non-neutral, or what we call static or sustained, where you stay in a position for too long. So you can describe posture in various ways. There’s also what you would want to consider anatomical posture. And this is the inherent design of the axial skeleton from your head and your spine, as it changes through life. So anatomical posture, to me is not something you can really control. Like it may be affected by something at birth, or an injury, or an illness or disease process, like scoliosis or arthritis. So posture can change as a result of having those congenital problems, or medical problems. You know, posture, just, it doesn’t just pertain to the spine, though, either. So a lot of people think it’s just, you know, how I’m sitting or how I’m standing. But it also pertains to the extremities or the appendicular skeleton. Probably that’s a complex word for people, but really, don’t worry so much about that. It’s really how, for example, we hold our shoulders and our arms and our wrists, our legs, our hips, they have posture, too. So that’s, in a nutshell, what I think posture is.

James Crow
So it’s a brilliant answer, you know, you’ve come at it from various perspectives, including, you know, a lot of people say, “Oh, look at me, I’ve got great posture”, and they’ll adopt a static pose, which, of course, is useless to get them through the rest of the day, that pose might be great to pose for an Instagram selfie, but it’s not going to help them get that box off the top of their kitchen cupboard without struggling is it? So you’ve moved into dynamic posture as well. And I really like that concept of you having a central core and then going out to tjeposture of your shoulders, arms and the rest of you as well. It’s really good way of answering Alison,

Alison Heller-Ono
Well, most people don’t realise it, but we have working postures, while we’re performing tasks, or activities at work or at home. You know, posture, this is really, really interesting, I think. Posture is based on vision and reach. So when your eyes need to see a visual target, or see what your hands are doing, like typing on a keyboard or looking at a monitor. So if the monitor or your visual target is not centred to you, it will alter your posture because your head follows your eyes and your body follows your head. So it’s like a chain reaction.

James Crow
Yeah, absolutely. Your head follows your eyes and your body follows your head. If you take a cat and hold it upside down, perish the thought, please do not try that at home. But were our listeners to hold a cat upside down and drop the poor thing, it’s eyes would rotate, followed by its head and finally the body, to allow it to land in an appropriate posture.

Alison Heller-Ono
Yeah, you see? That’s right. So he’s validated my definition.

James Crow
Please don’t try that at home, anybody. Please do not hold any humans upside down and drop them to see if they right themselves because we’re not responsible and my insurance will not cover that. I’m guessing that yours doesn’t as well Alison,

Alison Heller-Ono
I stay away from cats. I have bad allergies to cats.

James Crow
I’m sorry for bringing them up. Yeah, I have a few friends who have cat allergies, as well. Best avoided then! So you and your team, you help people in the workplace with their posture. That’s right, isn’t it?

Alison Heller-Ono
That’s correct. Now, as a physical therapist, and an ergonomist, I’m acutely aware of people’s postures, I look at it all the time, not just for work, but like at a restaurant or out shopping. I see people overreaching, bending incorrectly, just holding their hands on their devices too long, you know, looking down at their phone. So it’s like, it’s just something I can’t get away from, you know, so it’s, it’s kind of funny, but I’m, I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. So the first thing you know, that I think is to be aware of, of your own posture, you know, where your body is in space. And most people have very poor body awareness. And you, you probably heard the term of postural awareness. So with postural awareness, for example, is your head in line with your shoulders, or forward of your shoulders, like a turtle like a forward head. That’s such a typical posture. You know, young people I see, you know, working looking at their phones, looking down at their phones, and texting with their thumbs. Their posture is usually really in a poor forward head and slouch, where the shoulders are rounded, the back is rounded. So you can you know, be aware of that position. But most people aren’t. Unless, you know, you point it out to them. Being aware of how you’re sitting, whether you’re slouching, or like sitting forward in your chair. So many people really are not mindful of sitting, of their sitting postures. So for example, you know, where are your legs, your hips, your buttocks, when you’re seated. Are your feet on the floor, or your arms close to your trunk and resting on the armrest, if you are at rest. So those are a couple of examples of how I help people. The next thing I do is to help correct awkward or non neutral postures, which goes back to the first thing I said, which is about you know, correcting the non neutral alignment. So correcting posture is rather complex. You know, it depends on whether it’s a functional and dynamic posture or a stationary posture. So for listeners, you know, like sitting in a chair is a stationary posture, while lifting a box or moving a cart is a dynamic functional posture, where there’s movement, right? So people typically have poor postural habits, whether it’s static or dynamic, but they often move in the same way all the time. Like if you typically have to bend and lift boxes, you’re going to do it the same way all the time, you’ll probably bend at your back instead of your hips and your knees. Or if you have to stock shelves or reach for things high and low, you’re probably just going to do it the same way all the time until you have some kind of discomfort, right?

James Crow
Yeah, totally. So first of all, as a guy who works in posture myself, all I do is look at people’s posture. It’s a curse, once you’ve been in the posture business. The first thing you notice about someone is is their posture. And it’s really hard not to judge, because for most people, they’re not aware of their posture in their day to day activities, and to judge them meanly as we can do is just a little unfair. And when I work in private practice, I always tell my clients not to tell off the people they love with the stuff that I’ve taught them because it’s just going to annoy those other people. With regards to when your’e seated you can pay attention to your posture for a short time. But then when most people are looking into a screen, they get lost in the work that they’re doing and they lose that postural awareness. So having the environment set up well is really key. And also improving that person’s ability to pay attention to themselves, I find is really key as well. Would you say that’s fair?

Alison Heller-Ono
Yes, I would. For example, I totally agree with that. And one thing I also help is to find the best chair for people to use when seated at the computer. You could call me a chair whisperer, in a sense. Yep, a chair whisper.

James Crow
You heard it here first. Alison. Heller-Ono, the chair whisperer. Whispering at chairs near you soon. I know exactly what you mean. So you’ve got you’ve got some online programmes. You can help people to make sure that their chairs are set up, right, and that they’ve got appropriate seating is that right?

Alison Heller-Ono
That’s true, you know, but before we go, let me answer that in a little bit. But I can tell immediately how a chair fits or doesn’t fit someone. If they have bothered, or to adjust it correctly or not. I can assess the person in their chair, assess their posture, while they’re sitting. And they don’t even realise that I’m doing that. And I get so much information from that, of how that chair fits, whether they’re using it appropriately or not. And then from there, I can assess the person by measuring them in sitting, and use the measures to select the best chair, which will match and fit them correctly. And I call that chair fitting,

James Crow
You must be very popular with chair manufacturers I’d imagine.

Alison Heller-Ono
Well, there’s so much to the science of chair fitting, chair assessment, selection and fit, basically. Yeah, I mean, it’s a really important foundation. If you think about working at a computer and sitting, in my opinion, the chair is foundational to seated work, right? Yeah. And if the chair isn’t right, then the ergonomics will never be right of that workstation. So you have to get the chair fit and the posture of the individual to work together. And then you can work on improving the ergonomics of that workstation.

James Crow
I get it. So you’re looking holistically at the relationship between the individual and the chair rather than just the chair as a thing on its own and the person is a thing on their own?

Alison Heller-Ono
Exactly. You have to match them. And that’s the value of ergonomics is all about fitting the task to the human or the design of a tool to human use. And that’s what a chair is, a chair is a tool. Right? It’s a productivity tool, isn’t it?

James Crow
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Not quite as expensive as the individual sat on it. But absolutely, it is a productivity tool. You reminded me of some sort of dating guru and you match up individuals and chairs for them like the Millionaire Matchmaker or something?

Alison Heller-Ono
The chair Matchmaker,

James Crow
The chair matchm aker, there you go, you can you can have that one.

Alison Heller-Ono
That’s great, James, thank you.

James Crow
My third question for you. And this is for our listeners right now who they may be in any sort of position or doing anything at the moment. If you could give them one simple piece of postural advice, what would that be?

Alison Heller-Ono
Well, I would tell your listeners to be mindful of their posture, to have posture awareness, particularly during stationary tasks, and activities as well as functional tasks. So it’s easy to experience postural strain from overreaching or bending awkwardly, or sitting unsupported for an extended period of time. And you know, like most people don’t become mindful or aware of their posture until something starts to hurt, or something’s not quite right, you know. So in addition, being aware of workstation ergonomics, or the tasks or performing the placement of equipment, that’s as important, as it predicates the posture that the person will be working in. So I like to say if the chair isn’t right, then the ergonomics of the workstation will never be right. And neither will your posture. So this leads to problems like musculoskeletal fatigue, or tension, tightness, and ultimately an injury. And it can manifest in many different places. So not just like the neck or the shoulders, upper back, mid lower back, or your wrist or forearm or elbow. So it can occur many different ways. So another expression many of us ergonomists like to say, or posture people like you and I, is that your next posture is your best posture, right. So in other words, the body is designed to move so get up and move. Recently, you know, there’s been a lot of talk about sitting as being bad for your health. Maybe you’ve heard the term sitting is the new smoking. It’s not quite that but it can definitely contribute, though to many physiological changes if you sit too long. So it’s not just about poor posture, it’s about how long you stay in that posture and what you’re doing while you’re in that posture. And for this reason, I want your listeners to remember this: Basically, sit stand move and groove, right?

James Crow
Sit stand move and groove, we love it!

Alison Heller-Ono
Sit stand move and groove, you have to do all of it through the course of your day. By doing so you’ll be more mindful of your posture and improve your overall health.

James Crow
That’s such great advice. I love that. So we’re seeing a shift towards home working at the moment. And a lot of people, when they’re at home don’t have the interruptions that they would normally have at work and they’re likely to spend a lot of time just sitting there working. So you heard it here, folks, get up out of your chair, move and groove, get some water in and water out, if you need to, and get that body moving. You could use a little break timer maybe to give yourself advice on when it is time to move. Those are widely available on your computers. Or you could set something on your phone or a little egg timer or whatever it is that you’ve got available. But please do keep moving.

Alison Heller-Ono
James, I wanted to just answer that one question that you brought up about some of the training that we offer about chairs. We have a chair assessment specialist masterclass for professionals like yourself, people that work with individuals around posture and posture awareness, and maybe workstation ergonomics, there’s so much behind the science of chair assessment, selection and fit. And we’ve created what’s called the chair assessment system. And that system helps employers as well as vendors, and anyone that buys chairs or literally even uses a chair, (which would be most of us or almost all of us) to assess the quality and competency of a chair, whether it should remain in the workplace or continued to be used. So the chair assessment system is an inventory asset management tool for chairs only. And it helps you to inventory the quality and competency of a chair to determine whether it should be kept in the workplace, should be repaired, or replaced. So it’s a great system. And that system is part of the Worksite International Chair Assessment Specialist Masterclass. And if you don’t want to become a CASP, then we have the classes separately just for chair assessment, and or just for chair fitting.

James Crow
Chairs are an inventory item. And I think people just assume that that once I’ve got a chair that certain it’s going to keep them going forever.

Alison Heller-Ono
Chairs have a life cycle. And they remain in the workplace far too long. And our chair assessment system helps employers to determine, you know, when they should be replaced. And then once they’re replaced, how to do a fitting. And so we have the training that supports all that. It’s really fantastic. We’ve gotten great feedback from practitioners, from vendors who sell chairs, who helped their customers determine what chairs should be replaced, and many other people like facilities and purchasing people. So I hope you’ll check that out at Worksiteinternational.com.

James Crow
And for those of you who work for yourself and work from home, and nobody’s going to be buying you a new chair. have a quick look at your chair now. Just judge it. Is it a sorry old saggy horse that needs taking to the knackers yard? Or is it a Ferrari that’s gonna keep you going at great speed, for some period of time?

Alison Heller-Ono
That’s exceptional. James, you’re right. It’s like do you have, is your chair like a clunker? Or a junk car? Or is it the super hot model? That’s so funny that you you identified that because that’s how I like to look at chairs. I would like to tell your listeners that if you go to my website at Worksiteinternational.com, I do have a free trial. There’s a demo video and a download to assess to up to 10 chairs on your own. So you could really assess your home office chair and determine whether to keep, repair, or replace it.

James Crow
It sounds like a really good idea. So there you go. You can keep repair or replace. Please keep our podcasts top of mind. We’re really keen to keep you going and listen to our next ones. So it just remains for me to say thank you so much, Alison Heller-Ono, I’ve learned loads from you today. It’s been really fascinating. So thank you very much for joining us.

Alison Heller-Ono
Well, thank you James for inviting me. This has been a great opportunity and I look forward to chatting with you again soon, and your listeners: have a great day and watch your posture!

James Crow
Yep, watch your posture guys. Take care. Bye bye

 

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