If we can loosely define “ergonomic” as “comfortable, safe, pleasant, high quality, and productive”, then these tips should legitimately improve your next vacation, ergonomically!
Assuming your vacation starts in your vehicle:
- If possible, optimise seat height so you can see well, and adjust suspension to minimise shock and vibration
- Optimise seat fore-aft seat position so you can depress the pedals with no gap between the backrest and your back.
- Adjust the backrest angle, with a preference to about 90-100 degrees. Your head should be balanced over your shoulders.
- Optimise lumbar support. If you need to “create” a lumbar support, find a towel, a shirt, a pillow, a pool noodle, small inflatable pillow, or a roll of quilted paper towels. Start with about 3 inches (8 cm) diameter and experiment with larger and smaller rolls. (Paper towels are perfect – peel them off until you get just the right size!) Position the roll so that it is centered against the deepest part of your lumbar curve. Make sure that your buttocks are in contact with the bottom of the backrest, and your upper back is still pressed against the backrest.
- Adjust the steering wheel to keep elbows close to your sides.
- If you have armrests, you may be able to support your forearms on them. Don’t worry if you don’t have armrests, or they aren’t convenient – they’re optional!
- Adjust mirrors last, now that you’re sitting in a good posture. The view through the mirrors can act as a cue to sit up. When you can’t see out of the mirrors, chances are that you’re slouching!
- Sit with a symmetrical posture. Take your wallet out of your pocket so you are not sitting with one hip higher than the other.
- Take regular breaks from driving. Don’t drive for hours at a time! Try to stop every hour. Walk into the coffee shop for your latte, rather than using the drive-through. Walk around your car.
- Use a good sitting posture, most of the time, but try to move every 20 minutes! Sit with your buttocks right at the back of the seat. (Don’t slouch into the middle of the seat.)
Assuming that you stop on the way every hour or two to stretch…
- “Warm” up your muscles. You should walk a bit to get the blood flowing to your muscles before you stretch.
- When you stretch, do it slowly, and only to a point where you can feel the stretch, not pain.
- Ideally, count to at least 15 before you change to a new position.
- Listen to your body (and your doctor!) Don’t stretch a body part that may worsen an injury.
- Stretch both sides of a body part equally.
- Do not hold your breath while stretching.
Assuming that your vacation includes some walking, your shoes should:
- Ideally have a wide low heel.
- Have adequate arch support.
- Allow you to wiggle your toes.
- In-soles should be visco-elastic. The sole should cushion your step.
Assuming you might include some hiking:
- Choose a back pack that is appropriate for the individual’s size and needs. (Small children need small backpacks!)
- Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Always wear both shoulder straps. Adjust shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly against your back and close to the body.
- Consider a pack with a waistbelt and padded back panels for extra comfort and stability.
- For increased visibility, consider a pack with reflective trim.
- Choose a pack with wheels for heavy loads or special needs. (But note that wheels add weight!)
- Load heavy items close to your back. (Don’t put a bottle of water in the outside pocket!)
- Do not overload your pack. Consider setting a maximum pack weight of no more than 10% of body weight. You’ll be surprised when you actually weigh a backpack, how heavy it is! An average child’s school backpack weighs 22% of body weight!
- Distribute contents of the pack evenly.
- Fasten the waistbelt and adjust strap length to secure and centre the load.