Yes I know, it’s so old fashioned! Stand up straight, shoulders back, sit up straight, DON’T SLOUCH! My mum said all that about four million times a day and I tried to ignore it as much as possible. Here’s the thing, have you ever had inexplicable headaches or back pain or a stiff neck? It could be because your body is unbalanced and misaligned.
Good posture keeps the bones and joints in good alignment so that your muscles don’t become fatigued. Fatigue and injury can cause a lot of pain throughout the body.
By paying attention to your posture and alignment you can reduce abnormal wear on the joints that can cause arthritis later in life. Aligning the body properly decreases the stress on the ligaments of the spine because it prevents the vertebrae from settling into abnormal positions. Standing up straight and spreading your weight through your core doesn’t sound like such a pain anymore, does it?
What does bad posture do to your body?
Bad posture puts a strain on muscles and joints because your body is out of alignment. Over time the body tries to compensate for that misalignment. That causes muscle spasms and joint pain. Here is what you can look forward to:
- Tight muscles
- Sore or popping joints
- Low energy
- Poor balance
- Lack of concentration
- Restricted breathing
- Low mood or irritability
What causes bad posture?
It’s not really something we pay attention to which is why it’s hard to correct once we do try. If you’ve been slouching your muscles have probably just become lazy and it will take a while to train them into the correct position again.
So, why do we develop bad posture?
Sitting at a desk all day will make muscles and joints stiff. It’s a good idea to get up and move around at least once every hour. Have you ever been stiff and miserable at the end of a long day at work? You may have a dull ache at the base of your skull, stiff shoulders and sore hips. Your joints pop and complain when you get up and all you want to do is go home and collapse. Sound familiar?
Weak core muscles can pull the body into unhealthy positions. The body will naturally try to compensate but this causes further strain on other muscles. Don’t think of your core as just your abdominal muscles. It also includes muscles from the chest, back, sides, hips, buttocks and upper thighs.
Being overweight will put a strain on joints and muscles which makes it hard to maintain good posture. When you are heavy it is harder to perform physical tasks and maintain balance which over time will weaken the muscles. Weak muscles can’t support the excess weight in the body and this causes a lot of joint pain if you are overweight.
Pregnancy can cause back and pelvic pain due to the extra weight of the baby which will pull the body out of alignment. It is important to stay as active as you can throughout pregnancy to strengthen your muscles and keep a good posture.
High Heels (What a shame) create unnatural angles in the body. The raised heels and pressure on the balls of the feet push the legs and back out of alignment. If your hips aren’t in their natural position over the feet it can round the back and shoulders causing pain in the lower back and between the shoulder blades.
Bad Habits are hard to break. If you have always slouched then it could take a while to break the habit. You will have to retrain your body to redistribute your weight evenly. It may help to stand in front of the mirror and find out where your problem areas are.
What are the benefits of good posture?
You look younger when you stand or sit up straight. Slouching makes you look older and can cause a hump in your neck. Rounded shoulders make your breasts look saggy and give you a tired or run down appearance.
Good self-esteem seems to be a side effect of good posture, would you believe it. Go stand in front of a mirror. Slouch, round your shoulders and drop your head. Do you feel as miserable as you look? Now stand up straight, put your shoulders back and lift your chin. How much better does that look? How much better do you feel?
Improved breathing. When you slouch your spine and ribcage are compressed. When you stand up straight and put your shoulders back and down, you make room in your chest for your lungs to fill properly. Deep breathing improves mood and concentration.
A healthy digestive system. So, it sounds a bit strange but if you compress your abdominal area it can make it harder for food and waste to pass through your system. This slows down digestion and expulsion which could lead to heartburn, indigestion and even constipation.
Improved concentration. As you know, slouching compresses the ribcage which makes it harder to breathe properly. A lack of oxygen makes us tired and irritable. It is much harder to concentrate or focus when our brain can’t get the necessary oxygen. Do you yawn a lot when you are trying to work? It might not be boredom, it’s your brain trying to get oxygen!
You look good. Yes, I said that good posture makes you look good. More attractive even. Bad posture just makes you look sluggish, unkempt, lazy and untidy. People with good posture look a lot more healthy, vibrant, confident and assertive.
A healthy back and joints with increased flexibility. Misaligned muscles and joints will become tired, stiff and inflamed over time. Bad posture increases the risk of slipped discs and back pain. Decreased blood circulation due to compression will stiffen muscles and joints making the movement more and more painful. Bad posture also causes uneven wear in the joints. If you have back or joint pain you could try going for an alignment with a massage therapist to loosen up stiff muscles and joints.
What does good posture look like?
Your back should be in a natural position, not ramrod straight. Forcing the spine into an exaggerated posture will cause just as much discomfort as slouching. It is also very tiring to try to force a straight back all day.
Good posture should be effortless. Once you learn to align your spine over your hips and to set your shoulders back and away from your ears you should actually feel quite comfortable. The spine has natural curves in it that should be maintained. There is a gentle curve from the base of the skull to the shoulders and another curve from the shoulders down to the base of the spine.
When your posture is correct, the weight is distributed evenly between the feet, the pelvis is neutral and the shoulders are away from the ears with the shoulder blades sliding down the back.
Easy tips to improve your posture
- Stand in front of the mirror. Slouch, now stand up straight, put your shoulders back and lift your chin. Feel better?
Pretend that there is a string running from your pelvis through your spine and up through the top of your head. The string is pulling you up and aligning your body naturally.
- Every time you have to get up from your desk remind yourself to stand up straight and take a few deep breaths.
- Set a reminder on your phone to check in with your body once every hour. Make sure that you are sitting or standing up straight. Most people slouch for up to 40 minutes out of every hour.
- Don’t slouch over your book when you read. Lift the book off the table and hold it at a comfortable level so that you can sit up and read. Also, make sure that you have enough light to read by. Many people slouch because they are straining to see the print.
- Get a firm chair for working at a desk that supports your lower back. Something adjustable that allows you to put your feet on the floor. Put a cushion behind your lower back to remind you to sit up straight. If you slouch, it will fall down.
- Sit with your butt far back in your chair, not on the edge. It will force you to sit up properly. When you sit on the edge of your chair your back will round as you bend over your desk.
- Ground your feet when you sit at your desk. Put them flat on the floor and don’t cross them. This will encourage you to sit up straight. Crossing your legs tilts your hips and pelvis which can cause pain in your lower back and shoulders.
- Invest in a good mattress. If it is too soft your body is rounded all night which can strain muscles. It may feel relaxing or comfortable at first but you will wake up with a stiff neck and back eventually.
- Don’t carry a heavy handbag or laptop case over one shoulder. It pulls one side of the body down which means the other side will try to compensate. This leads to sore muscles which will make you slouch. Try a backpack that spreads the weight across the back evenly. It’s also a good idea to keep your handbag as light as possible. You don’t actually have to carry your whole life around in it!
- Try strengthening and balancing exercises like yoga or pilates to align your body properly and build strength in your core.
There you go! Stand up straight and don’t slouch! 😉