‘Don’t slouch!’ But good posture is about more than just appearance. Being able to recognise and improve bad posture will have a positive effect on your health and overall well being. Your posture is linked to your mood, improving your digestive system and boosting your confidence. Sitting or standing in the correct posture can help your body to function properly.
What is posture? Essentially, Posture is what keeps us standing upright and moving against gravity. The muscles that extend from your neck to your ankle are known as your postural muscles, and they are continually active to prevent the collapse of the skeleton. With good posture, you are able to move and perform your daily activities with more energy and efficiency and less stress, fatigue and stiffness. It helps decrease stress and the abnormal wearing of joints and joint surfaces that could lead to arthritis.
But what is so bad about bad posture? If you slouch, so does your spine, which contributes to poor circulation, which can lead to chronic fatigue and ultimately, exhaustion. Bad posture can also cause back, neck and shoulder problems, which can lead to a herniated disc, as well as a multitude of other health issues.
The deep neck flexor muscles responsible for taking your chin to your chest become weak, long and underactive, and the muscles of the back of the neck and upper back (upper trapezius and levator scapula) become overactive, tight and short. Rounded shoulders are contributed by overactive chest (pectoral) muscles and weak muscles of the upper back (scapular stabilising, retracting and depressing muscles). This creates a muscular imbalance which leads to earlier fatigue and overuse of the posterior neck muscles (upper trapezius and levator scapula) which then causes tension and pain. This cycle is also known as Upper Cross Syndrome.
The upper cross syndrome also enhances a greater curvature of the cervical and thoracic spine, which then puts greater pressure on the vertebral discs and the ligaments of the spine. The constant slumped position also decreases your lung capacity but limiting the full expansion of the diaphragm and lungs so you end up taking many shorter breaths rather than fewer longer breathes.
Surely bad posture is a sign on laziness? Not at always. On the contrary. Weight issues can contribute towards poor posture, as weight gain changes skeleton and muscle structure. Typically, we’re a much less active generation, with increased working hours being the main contributing factor to this, added to the fact more and more people occupy ‘desk’ jobs, which involves being hunched over at work. Unsupportive mattresses also contribute, as does low self-esteem, high-heeled shoes and tight-fitting clothes.
Most recently, a study has shown that texting can add 50 pounds of extra pressure on a person’s spine. Additionally, daily activities that may seem normal whilst watching TV, looking at a computer screen, reading a book, driving or sitting, in general, can contribute to poor posture. A typical example of poor posture is having rounded shoulders, head leaning forward, and a slump position. QUICK CHECK! Are you still maintaining your upright posture?
Now you’ve recognised your posture is poor, how do you improve it? Firstly, exercise. Focus on back, chest, abdominal and glute muscles. Stand up tall. Relax and elongate your spine. Pinch your shoulder blades together as often as you can, whether sitting or standing. Secondly, make necessary changes to your environment, such as adding support to your chair. Thirdly, look at your habits – what needs to change? Do you slouch when sitting down or have a habit of hunching over your computer? Identify what contributes to your bad posture and address these areas.
1. Keep computers and monitors eye level so you can keep your neck and head in a neutral position
2. Use a chair with good back support so you can sit up straight
3. Stretch the neck, chest and back muscles to help prevent shortening of the muscles
4. Take up Pilates to strengthen and improve posture
5. Massage to relieve tension and pain
6. Be aware of your body and its relaxed positions.
Through making these small changes you’ll feel happier and less depressed, as it’s scientifically proven that slouchers are more vulnerable to negative self-talk. Sitting or standing straight has been proven to increase mindfulness. You’ll also look younger and slimmer, which in turn will boost your confidence. Moreover, sit up straight and you’ll take in an extra 30% oxygen, which will give you more energy and improve your overall brain function.
It’s time to stand up tall and take your posture seriously to boost your health and overall well-being.
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