The Importance of Posture
There is a reason our parents, teachers and elders always told us to stand up straight when we were growing up, and it’s a shame that once you get to a certain age no one reminds you to do it anymore. It was all about having the right posture (the alignment and positioning of the body) – a concept that is vitally important if you are to lead a happy, pain-free life. And since no one tells grownups to stand up straight and stop slouching, we need to remember to do it for ourselves.
by Lisamarie Lamb
Bad posture such as slouching, walking with our heads down, and hunching our shoulders when we sit at our desks means that too much pressure is being put on our joints and muscles by the ever-present force of gravity. Good posture can undo all of the stress and strain by ensuring that the same force of gravity is evenly distributed throughout the body, and therefore every part shares the burden. We cannot escape gravity, but we can make sure we do our best not to let it get us down. Literally.
Poor posture isn’t just a case of looking untidy – it can cause rounded shoulders, back pain and problems, joint degeneration, and even a potbelly. So getting the right posture in day-to-day life is necessary if you want to stay supple and upright into your old age.
But why do we have poor posture? It really depends on the habits we form in our everyday lives – sitting at the wrong-sized desk or in the wrong-sized chair and typing for hours at a time is one cause. Staring down at a mobile phone is another. Even your exercise regime may be contributing to your bad posture, despite it shifting those excess pounds. Pregnancy, obesity, and ill-fitting footwear are also culprits.
Thankfully, bad posture is fairly easy to correct. Once the habits that cause slouching and hunching or shuffling are broken, the rest is simply a matter of re-programming the body to accept a new way of standing, walking, and sitting. It may be uncomfortable at first, but once you’ve cracked it, you’ll immediately notice the difference. Moreover, until then there are some exercises you can do to stop the painful effects of poor posture.
If you find you have a stiff neck after sitting at a computer screen all day, or using your phone for too long, drop your chin down and tuck it in, stretching the back of your neck. Hold this position for five seconds and release. Do this 10 times in a row.
Are your shoulders hunched over? If so, it means that the muscle that spans your shoulders and back (the trapezius) has been weakened. To fix this, lie face down on a hard surface with your arms out to the side, palms flat to the floor. Raise both arms as high as you can, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five and drop your arms. Do this 12 times in a row and repeat up to three times a day.
Quite the opposite of having rounded shoulders, having elevated shoulders makes you feel tense and tight because your chest muscle (that runs from ribs to shoulder blades) has been weakened. To strengthen that muscle again, sit up straight in a chair and place your hands on your hips, palms down on the seat next to you. Push down on the chair until your hips lift up and hold for a count of five. Repeat 12 times.
Apart from the obvious health benefits to your spine and joints, having a good posture can help you to portray a more confident image. It also allows you to breathe deeper because you’re more open, and improves digestion and circulation, which can make you look up to five pounds slimmer!