You have probably been lectured on numerous occasions about good posture. It’s something that your parents and teachers may have talked about and that will have been highlighted in occupational health talks as well, but how important is good posture, really?
The Truth About Good Posture
This is one area where all those people who have nagged you throughout your life were correct. Good posture is essential for protecting your spine and promoting overall health. Your posture has a role to play in balance, breathing, and muscle tone.
What Makes for Good Posture?
Good posture means:1
- Keeping your chin parallel to the floor
- Keeping your spine neutral
- Holding your shoulders back and keeping them even
- Maintaining a strong core
- Maintaining good weight distribution (not standing with your weight more towards one foot or your knees turned out)
Why Does Posture Matter?
Posture matters because it affects so many other elements in your body. For instance, if you’re constantly turning to the Zen blend to help yourself relax because you’re getting tension headaches, then it could be that those headaches are coming from being too tense in your neck and shoulders and better posture could help with that.
If you’re constantly tired, that could be because you are breathing shallowly, and guess what: good posture can help with that too.
Having good posture means that you will put less stress on your bones and joints—not just the joints in your spine, but also your neck, shoulders, and hips. You may not notice the effects of bad posture while you are a young adult, but as you get older, you might find that you notice some aches and pains, and correcting your posture will help improve the strength of your core muscles and reduce that pain.2
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There are some less well-known benefits to good posture too:3
People with poor posture are more likely to experience stress incontinence than those with good posture. Slouching puts pressure on the abdomen, which in turn puts pressure on the bladder. Having good posture reduces that pressure and makes it easier for the pelvic floor muscles to cope with pressure.
Constipation can be aggravated by poor posture on the toilet. If you find yourself straining while on the toilet, try raising your knees so that they are above your hips and avoid hunching over while on the toilet.
Slouching while eating or immediately after eating can increase your risk of acid reflux. This will put pressure on your abdomen and can force stomach acid up into the esophagus. Because of this, it’s important to try to sit upright with good posture for at least one hour after a meal.
Resist the urge to go lie down immediately after eating as well. If you need a pick me up because you’re a little tired after eating, try something like the Active blend, which contains a blend of black pepper, bitter orange, and sage to help you feel energized.
Building Good Posture Habits
If you have poor posture, building new good habits can feel quite difficult. Your posture is something that you need to maintain at all times throughout the day, whether you’re walking, sitting at a computer desk, watching TV, or sitting at a table and eating.
Since you have been sitting and standing throughout your life, the way that you do those things will be ingrained now, and changing those habits is not easy. The good news is that you can change them with practice and the new good habits can become a natural part of your life.
The first thing that you should do is change your environment. Make sure that your computer monitor is in a suitable place so that you don’t have to crane your neck or slouch to see it. Adjust the height of your chair or desk so that you don’t need to slouch to type. Get used to sitting up straight with your shoulders rolled back and down, and keep your head upright.
Strengthening Your Core
People who have slouched for most of their lives may have poor posture because they do not have a strong core. You can improve your core strength with planking exercises, back extensions, and bridges.
Some people also have a lack of flexibility. This is particularly true for those who wear high heels on a regular basis or those who carry excess weight, which has altered their posture over time. Try hip flexor stretches and standing thigh stretches to correct an exaggerated curve to the lower back.4
It can take a long time to build good posture habits. Just think about the things that you do during the day that may lead to bad posture. Do you:
- Carry a messenger bag or handbag on the same side every day?
- Lean on one leg while standing for extended periods?
- Sit or stand hunched over when reading your phone?
- Slouch when taking long journeys on public transportation?
All of these habits can have a lasting impact on your posture. Indeed, the classic cellphone-using posture is often referred to as “text neck.” This posture is a sign of a tight chest and weakness in the upper back, and it can lead to shoulder stiffness if it is not corrected.
So, if you’re trying to correct your posture, don’t just focus on how you sit when watching movies or how you stand when you are walking. Think about everything that you do during the day. Those little habits all add up to a big chunk of time and can make a big difference in the long run. Most importantly, practicing habits that will improve your posture is critical for your long-term health.
Photo credits: AfricaStudio/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com