Let's do a quick posture check-in: are you slouching right now? If you answered "yes," you've probably been hunched over most of the day without even realizing it.
We are not born with poor posture, but we inadvertently train our bodies to slump and slouch. We crane our necks down to stare at our smartphones, and slump to get at eye-level with our laptop screens. Little by little the shoulders begin to round, the chin juts forward, and we have inexplicable bouts of neck and back pain that seem to appear out of nowhere.
The truth is, we've been training ourselves to slouch for most of our lives. Some people can develop poor posture as a result of being the first kid in their grade to have a growth spurt during adolescence. Others create bad habits by sitting all day at the office, wearing high heels or other unsupported shoes too often, or from putting strain on the skeletal system through excess weight or stress. Having weak core muscles also further compounds the issue.
Why is having good posture so important?
When were sitting and standing with good posture, our bones stay aligned with the spine and take strain off of joints. Good posture also reduces any unnecessary stress on muscles and tendons that surround the bones, making our bodies move and work more efficiently without hindrance. All of our systems are linked together, and improving one component often causes a cascade of health benefits throughout our bodies.
The benefits of having good posture:
- Studies have shown that people who sit and stand up straight are less likely to suffer from depression, and more likely to have a positive mood.
- When your chest is collapsed inward due to slouching, you can decrease the amount of oxygen that enters your lungs by up to 30%. When standing up straight you'll breathe more easily.
Stress levels are decreased with good posture, and you'll feel more mental clarity.
- Your tummy will look flatter, and you'll even grow a few inches taller.
Although there are plenty of quick-fix solutions to poor posture (such as back braces), they often cause you to rely on that external device like a crutch rather than actually strengthening your muscles and re-training your body.
Simple ways to improve your posture:
Consider switching to sitting on an exercise ball at the office.
Not only will it force you to sit up straight without effort, but it will keep your core muscles engaged throughout the day.
Start doing yoga!
Yoga does wonders for alignment, as well as strengthening and stretching your muscles.
Consult a chiropractor.
A chiropractic doctor can help you find the best methods for realigning your spine. A personal trainer or physical therapist can also provide advice for strengthening muscles that contribute to supporting your skeletal system.
When you start working towards having good posture, you may notice that your life begins to change in positive ways. Not just for vital functions such as breathing and digestion, but you may also feel improved confidence and comfort in your own body. It is amazing the difference such a simple change can make!
[Credit: American Chiropractic Association. Tips to Maintain Good Posture.]
[Credit: Pam Peeke, M.D. "Stop Slouching! Heres How to Improve Your Posture." U.S. News.]