Good posture, what’s all the fuss about?
We have all heard about having good posture. It most probably started when we were children and told to sit up properly and not to slouch, but chances are that a lot of us haven’t really given it too much thought beyond that.
Last year has been challenging because of lockdown, and most of us have been spending more time indoors either sitting on the couch or at our desks for longer periods of time. Take away the commute to and from our place of work, and we also have less movement in our day.
I am sure none of you wants to end up permanently stooped over, or to suffer from chronic back pain, but outside of those extremes, what does good posture mean beyond appearance and what does it mean for our bodies?
I set up my online health coaching business at the end of last year and although it was extremely exciting; it has meant longer than usual periods of sitting at my desk, often with the wrong posture. This has led to pain in my neck and shoulders, resulting in headaches.
Although I exercise regularly, I realised I needed to do some research into this which inspired me to write this article.
Good posture goes beyond looks
It is the position in which we hold hour body and limbs when standing, sitting or lying down. To have good posture means that in whatever activity, we need to be aware of always holding ourselves in a way that puts the least strain on our backs, whatever we are doing.
Maintaining good posture also keeps our bones and joints in alignment, it helps to support the ligaments holding the spine together to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Poor posture can lead to strain, causing our bodies to be out of alignment. This can happen over time, and it’s not until we experience pain that we realise what long term damage poor posture has done.
There are many contributors to poor posture, some common ones are:
When we feel stressed, our breathing patterns change and cause strain and tension in the neck and mid-back. Our shoulders will hunch up and cause pain throughout the upper and middle back.
When we put on extra weight, we move our spine and joints in unusual ways to accommodate the extra weight. Over time, excess weight can add to poor posture, with stooped shoulders, a bent spine, and a protruding stomach.
When pregnant, the muscles are less able to contract and keep our lower back in proper alignment. Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause joints and ligaments to loosen.
Weak or tight muscles
A lack of exercise and prolonged static activities can cause our muscles to become weak or tight. Our bodies require certain muscles to support our spines.
Bad work posture
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time can cause many problems in the neck, shoulders and lower back.
High heeled shoes
The things we do for vanity! The reality is high heels put a lot of strain on the spine, heels put stress on the backs and knees as the entire weight of the body shifts forward, changing your entire body posture.
Although these are all major contributors to poor posture, luckily, over time many poor posture habits can be reversed by simply practicing good posture.
Let’s look at a few of the ways of improving posture.
Proper sitting position when at a desk
We spend long hours sat working at our computers so how we sit at our desk is so important.
Follow these instructions to maintain the proper seated and standing positions:
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or upon a footrest if they don’t touch the ground.
- Do not cross your legs. Our ankles should rest on the floor (or footrest) in front of your knees.
- Sit forward enough in your chair so that there is a small gap between the backs of your knees and your chair.
- Your knees should not be positioned over your feet.
- Relax your shoulders and hold your forearms parallel to the ground.
- The top of your laptop screen should be one or two inches above your eye level when seated upright. This will help keep your neck aligned, reducing your chances of neck pain and headaches.
- Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Get up and move every 30 minutes.
Proper standing position
- Maintain the bulk of your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Keep your knees slightly bent, do not lock them.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Let your arms hang naturally at your sides.
- Tuck your stomach slightly in.
- Keep your head level so that your earlobes are in line with your shoulders.
- Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time.
Exercise and posture
Exercise really helps with your posture, especially yoga and pilates, which strengthen your core.
A strong core has positive effects on our posture, balance, spine and athletic performance. It protects your back, which is important if you sit at your desk a lot.
A strong core will make you look taller and thinner and improve spinal alignment. If you spend hours sitting at your desk in front of a computer, you will compromise your back muscles and posture.
Weight-bearing exercise helps to make your bones stronger and denser, and the muscles you develop with this type of exercise provide a significant amount of support to your bones.
Other things you can do to improve posture
A good deep tissue massage is fantastic for reducing tension in the body and improving circulation. It relaxes the overworked and sore muscles that resulted from bad posture and allow your body to relax into its natural alignment.
Investing in a stand to place your laptop on so it is at eye level as opposed to looking down will help keep your neck aligned, reducing your chances of neck pain and headaches.
Standing at your desk for at least 15 minutes every hour is proven to be good for your posture. There are adjustable stands available, which allow you to raise or lower your screen or laptop in order to do this.
If you wear heels, then try not to wear them every day, or no higher than 1-2 inches.
Like everything I do, keeping in good health, through exercise, walking, staying hydrated, eating the right foods and taking time away from screenswill all contribute to a happier and healthier you. Both in body and mind.
I hope you have enjoyed this post on improving posture. I love supporting women to make lifestyle changes, which lead to feeling alive, vibrant and beautiful. If you are interested in working with me then please do get in touch.