We are addicted to technology: we spend hours at our desks, maintaining improper posture. We bend our necks and slouch while texting or looking at our smart phones. We slump into the comfy couch while playing video games. The amount of time we spend sitting at home, work, and during transit is affecting our posture.
Proper posture is important to keep your body moving well and active, and can help you look younger and appear more slender. When you have good posture, your bones, not your muscles, keep your body upright and balanced. When you maintain poor posture, your muscles must work harder to keep you balanced. Your muscles grow tight, ligaments are pulled in strange directions, and joints are compromised. In addition, studies have linked poor posture to tension headaches, back pain, and as a contributor to digestive, respiratory, and pulmonary problems. Poor posture can also effect athletic performance. Core stabilization, fluid movement, and strong posture are essential to help you perform your best and avoid injury.
Here are 5 reasons that proper posture is important for your health:
- Improves breathing. When we make an effort to stand up straight, our ribs automatically lift, giving our rib cage the space it needs to breathe easy and deeply.
- Improves body alignment. When you stand and sit properly aligned, all organs function as intended, which is why good posture may improve digestion
- Eliminates back and neck pain. Proper posture allows your bones and spine to efficiently support your body’s weight. When posture is improper, muscles, tendons, and ligaments have to constantly work to support that same weight. This inefficiency can lead to pain and headaches.
- Recent research shows good posture may improve memory and learning. It’s theorized that good posture enhances breathing, which allows you to take in more oxygen and when you take in more oxygen, cognition improves!
- Improves mood. It can make you feel more confident and powerful and can boost your happiness.
How to achieve proper posture:
- Keep your chin parallel to the floor
- Shoulders should be even: Roll shoulders up, back, and down
- Spine should be neutral. Do not flex or arch the natural curve in your lower back
- Brace abdominal muscles
- Notice your hips – they need to be even. Some people may inadvertently lift one side. This creates imbalance.
- Knees should point ahead and be even
- Distribute body weight on both feet
There are several things you can do to address and correct bad posture:
- Focus on having good posture. Awareness goes a long way to improving your posture. If you’ve spent many years in a slumped position, your shoulders and upper body muscles may be super tight. That tightness will make it hard to maintain a neutral spine position throughout the day, but there is hope!
- Stand against a wall. Stand with head, shoulders, and back against a wall and your heels about 5-6 inches forward. Draw in the lower abdominal muscles, decreasing the arch in your lower back. This is what good posture feels like. Now push away from the wall and try to maintain this upright, vertical alignment.
- Static back stretch. Lie on the floor and place your legs on top of a bed, chair, or ottoman. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. Get your hips as close to the chair (or whatever you’re using to rest your legs on) as possible. Lay your arms on the ground at your side. Just lie there like this for 5 to 10 minutes. This position lines up your shoulders with your hips and helps relax the muscles in your lower back (an area that’s often tight due to bad posture). It also helps stretch the muscles in the middle of your back.
- Static wall stretch. This is a more intense version of the static back stretch. Instead of resting your legs on the bed, you’re going to put your legs up on a wall. To perform this stretch, lie on the floor with a wall in front of you. Bring your legs up the wall and scoot your bottom as close to the wall as possible. You should look like you’re sitting on the wall. Rest your arms out to your side. Hold this position for 5 minutes. You’ll get the same stretch as with the static back, but it will feel more intense.
Standing up straight is within reach. It just takes awareness, focus and intentionality.