Posture might be one of the most neglected aspects of your physical health. Check yours right now—you’re probably slumped over your keyboard or phone at this very moment. Suddenly being mindful of your posture prompts immediate correction, doesn’t it? Maintaining good posture isn’t just for dancers. It’s an oft neglected yet so very crucial component to your long-term physical health. Here’s why.
What determines good posture? And why should you care?
Good posture refers to the proper biomechanical alignment of your body to create effective motion with your body. According to Oregon Exercise Therapy:
Our bodies work on this wonderful principle called ‘vertical load’. This means that our bodies are designed in a manner where each of our major joints are designed to stack vertically one on top of the next. Shoulder over the hip, hip over the knee, knee over the ankle.”
Good posture enables you to use your body the way it was designed to be used; that is, when your muscles and joints are lined up properly, they are strengthened, allowing you to use your muscles properly and avoid injury and pain. If your body alignment is “off”, then other areas of your body will be negatively impacted.
By putting inordinate amounts of pressure on your muscles and joints, bad posture eventually causes damaging wear and tear on your tissues and weakens your bones. This could eventually lead to degenerative and painful conditions like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and even high blood pressure. Not good!
Lifelong benefits of good posture
Good posture has immediate effects (like giving you a boost of energy!) but it’s the long-term benefits that should you make start sitting up straight immediately.
It helps with digestion
When you’re perpetually slouched, you constrict your intestines and digestive system, keeping it from functioning optimally. If your digestive system is unable to move food through, you could become constipated.
It keeps you from developing a belly “pooch”
By not contracting your belly when you sit or stand, your stomach muscles will weaken over time, leading to an obvious paunch in the lower abdominals. When you practice good posture, however, you’ll engage the stomach muscles, keeping them taut and strong (even when you’re not doing crunches).
It protects you from injury
Proper bodily alignment enables your muscles and joints to function effectively, increasing your range of motion and decreasing your risk for injuring yourself and developing painful physical conditions like osteoporosis.
Even if you’re an active person who exercises regularly, poor bodily alignment can increase your risk for injuring yourself (fractures and torn ACLs, anyone?) as well as recovering from your workouts.
It relieves lower back pain
Your lower body supports your upper body. Obvious, right? But your upper body also has to pull its weight. When you have rounded shoulders, an extended neck, and a curved spine, you put an excessive amount of pressure on your lower back because it is being forced to pick up the slack. If you experience back pain, take a look at your posture. You just might find the culprit.
It helps you breathe properly
Slouching prevents your lungs from filling to capacity. This lack of circulation can take its toll on your energy, causing fatigue, a lack of productivity, and grumpiness.
It makes you more confident
The simple act of walking tall—holding your chin up with your shoulders back— is empowering, even when you don’t feel particularly confident. This confidence can help you be braver and more self-possessed no matter what comes your way.
How to Correct Poor Posture
- When sitting, put your feet flat on the ground. Your knees should not go over your feet. Suck your belly in. Roll your shoulders back (but don’t puff your chest out). Keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Keep your chin level.
- When standing or walking, suck your belly in, keep your shoulders and buttocks in line and your head looking straight ahead, chin parallel to the ground.
- When driving, keep your head against the head rest, backside flat against the seat, belly sucked in.
Other Tips for Straightening Up
Think like a dancer. What makes a dancer so graceful and elegant-looking? So much of it has to do with posture. From their earliest days of training, dancers are taught to “think tall”—shoulders back, tailbones tucked under, bellies in, necks long, chins lifted. Nothing destroys a dance like poor posture. As you step through the dance of life, “think tall”: while you’re walking, standing, sitting, eating, typing, etc.
Be mindful and correct, correct, correct. Every 20 minutes or so, check in with your posture. It’s so easy to forget and slip into poor alignment and it take a conscious effort to correct it until you form the habit. Checking in like this is also a good reminder to get up and move around!
Try yoga and/or chiropractic care. Yoga is all about properly aligning your body so that it can thrive and live in harmony with all other elements around it. It also teaches you to be hyper aware of your physical self: how it moves, how you perceive the world around you. The tiniest adjustments can make the biggest improvements toward realigning your entire self.
Scheduling a regular realignment with a chiropractor can also help get your body’s alignment back on track.
Your posture is an easy thing to neglect, but it’s one of those things that can have a severe impact on your lifelong health. No matter what you’re doing, take care to make sure that your body is properly aligned. It may take some practice, but your body will thank you.