It’s become almost instinctual. We slump into our office chairs, straining forward to see our laptop screens clearly. Our heads cock forward at an unnatural angle as our shoulders rise higher and higher. And then we wonder why we all have headaches at the end of the day.

At this point, the negative health repercussions from bad posture are all but established. There’s a reason why we’re constantly told to sit up — what may have once started out as a command about appearances has proven to have real implications for our wellness.

But while we may know somewhere deep down that we’re theoretically not supposed to slouch, a recent study published in the journal Biofeedback indicates that we’re not as cognizant of the bad habit in practice.

Researchers conducted two experiments that got to the root of our posture problems. In one, they had 87 students try to rotate their heads from side to side with their heads erect or thrust forward. The vast majority of them said they could rotate their head more easily and with a more generous range of motion when it was erect.

Then came the big test. When 125 students were asked to scrunch their necks for 30 seconds, almost all of them reported pain including pressure in the head, a stiff neck, eye tension, and headaches.

And here’s the doozy: “Most participants were totally surprised that 30 seconds of neck scrunching would rapidly increase symptoms and induce discomfort,” researchers wrote.

As we sit in our offices all day, we’re unknowingly causing ourselves pain when we give in to our baser posture-related instincts. But at least acknowledging that there is a problem is always the first step to a solution. So here’s to a belated New Year’s resolution to be more aware of how we sit. It may seem like a passive part of our day, but sitting wrong could actually set us back dramatically on our pathways to wellness.

Originally published on Ladders.

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