Stand Up Straight: The Zen of good tablet posture

With my birthday coming up, I suddenly got interested in smart fitness wrist bands, a new pair of running shoes and resuming some semblance of a regular workout.   

And because I was reviewing a new tablet while on assignment at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I was reminded of proper posture -- namely my bad posture -- while bending over the tablet to type, browse the Web and perform other tasks.

If you are like me, you grew up with parents who frequently pestered, "Stand up straight!" and "Sit up straight!" My father used to stand behind me while I was seated at the dinner table and pull my shoulders back, painfully.  I dated an acting student in college who once told me after seeing me perform on stage: "You looked OK, I guess, but you have to learn to Stand Up Straight!"   


So for years I've had this dumb mantra to Stand Up Straight/Sit up Straight drilled into me. One time, I came up with a good three-letter acronym, SUS (Stand/Sit Up Straight). I sometimes go around thinking or muttering to myself, "SUS, dude!" and "SUS-up!"  The ultimate insult on my lapsing posture came one day from a physical therapist who was treating me for a rotator cuff injury.  "Hey, stand up straight, buddy," he told me. "You look like a big comma."

Having bad posture while using a computer, laptop or tablet all day to type on is obviously a pretty disastrous combination.  I recently got a cheap standup desk,  (one that sits atop my regular desk and doesn't move up and down) which helps me while I work at home.  I've found I can stand and type and do other tasks and still feel great for hours at a time.

At MWC, I tried out the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard and started noticing all the hundreds of other reporters in a crowded press area who were bending over their laptops and tablets while typing furiously. Many of them found space on the floor up against a wall for some support. One poor guy was almost curled into a ball, reading and typing on his tablet in his lap.

I wondered, "Is that what I look like?" He really made me think, and I even created a short Videolicious video  to show off some of the ridiculous postures that tablet users can get in.

After writing about whether tablets can overtake laptops for years, I recently realized that neither approach really helps much with posture.  Smartphones are almost as bad. 

The saving grace for most mobile device users is that they don't have to sit for hours on end every day while typing or watching a video.  From what I can tell after talking with physical therapists and ergonomics experts, you do have to pay attention to the height of displays and keyboards at your work space, and I'd highly recommend a stand-up desk because sitting itself can be a killer. (A mild exaggeration.)

Even better, remember to walk around every hour, to stretch and adjust.  And when you do get back to work, remember: SUS-up! 

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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