How many times have you been nagged to quit slouching, sit up straight, or walk with your head held high? While it might be a little annoying to constantly be corrected on your posture, we’re here to say that anyone who gave you this advice has the right idea. Good posture is an absolutely vital part of a healthy lifestyle, and in more ways than you might realize.
What exactly is good posture?
‘Good posture’ is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but do you actually know what people mean when they say it? In essence, good posture focuses on the alignment of your spinal column and the surrounding muscles. When we have good posture, our bodies are naturally more aligned, and the vital structure of our spinal cord is well supported by our neck, back and core muscles.
A great way to check your posture is to periodically check in with your body, no matter what you’re doing. Are your head, neck, spine, and hips in a straight line, or in more of a C or S-shaped curve?
When you’re sitting, are your feet squarely beneath your knees, or are they kicked out in any which way? When standing, do you keep a soft bounce in your knees, or do you lock them and allow your legs to hyperextend?
These are all indicators of good or poor posture, and great things to keep in mind. But what are the benefits of all this work on posture?
Whether you’re walking around, sitting at a desk, or simply standing for a few minutes, there are almost always ways to improve your posture, and the benefits of doing so might shock you. So here are the top eight ways that great posture can change your life for the better!
1. Reduced pain, especially in the lower back
Low back pain is a startlingly common problem faced by many adults worldwide. One of the biggest culprits is the fact that so much of our time is spent sitting. But even if you do a good amount of standing as well, posture can be instrumental in reducing pain and soreness in your lower back.
When our shoulders are slouched forward and our backs are rounded, it puts excess pressure on the spinal structures in your lower back. Over time, this puts stress on the surrounding muscles in the lumbar region, which can quickly create nasty bouts of chronic or acute back pain. This can range from mild stiffness to downright debilitating pain, but what they share in common is their ability to be effectively helped with great posture.
2. Prevent tension headaches
Ever found yourself with a nasty headache after a few hours working at a desk? Some people blame excess screen time for these headaches, and while this can contribute, it’s more likely you’re experiencing what’s known as a tension headache. Tension headaches are called that because they’re caused by excess tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, often caused by poor head posture.
Check in with yourself from time to time: is your head sitting neatly above your shoulders, keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine? Or is your chin poking forward, creating an acute angle in the neck? If you spend too much time in the latter position, it begins to create muscle tension in the surrounding areas as the muscles are working hard to hold your head up, to look at your computer screen or phone. Overworking these suboccipital muscles can decrease the blood flow to the head, causing a painful tension headache.
Try to keep head and neck posture in mind, especially if you spend a lot of time working at a desk. You’ll be amazed at how quickly these headaches dissipate.
3. Increased energy thanks to better muscle efficiency
When our bodies spend a long time out of proper alignment, it puts excess stress on all of our major muscle groups. This means they have to work harder than normal, taking more energy than they normally would.
It might seem far-fetched, but it’s true: proper posture actually gives you more energy, because less of it is going towards muscles that are being used inefficiently. The spine’s job is to hold it up against gravity all day long, but that can only happen if the head, ribcage and pelvis are stacked vertically over each other to allow the spine to do its job. If they are not, the muscles then are working more to fight gravity pushing down on us.
4. Reduced wear and tear on joints
Our joints function at their best when there’s enough space between them. This means bones are cushioned from one another, preventing them from grinding against each other and wearing them down prematurely. However, poor posture can very easily negate this cushioning effect, essentially ‘pinching’ joints together in a way that isn’t intended. Left unchecked for too long, this can lead to joint pain or even arthritis later in life.
5. Better lung capacity and better circulation
Our lungs are essentially a pair of balloons sitting in our chest cavity above our diaphragm (our main breathing muscle.). The alignment of the rib cage can especially impact the diaphragm positioning, which impacts the lung’s ability to fully expand. When we sit or stand with poor posture, we’re limiting the ability or efficiency of the diaphragm and preventing the lungs from filling to capacity. This may not seem like such a big deal until you consider the fact that our lungs are responsible for oxygenating our blood—a vital process in the body. We breathe roughly 22,000 times a day, so having a good, efficient breath can have a huge impact on 11 different systems of the body.
In essence, good posture improves your breathing, which allows your blood to be more thoroughly oxygenated. These same posture habits also prevent your blood vessels from being constricted and compressed, so really it’s a twofold effect: better oxygen levels and better circulation. And all of this will lead to a healthier life!
6. Improved confidence
Another unexpected benefit of good posture is its scientifically proven benefits on our confidence and self-esteem. One study from 2009 found that good posture had a positive relationship with improving confidence in one’s own thoughts. Add that to the fact that people who stand and sit up straight with great posture simply look more confident, and you’ll begin to see how strongly this can impact our view of ourselves.
7. Better form for exercise, leading to better results
Posture isn’t just important when you’re sitting and standing in the course of your regular day-to-day life. It’s also vital when considering your form for exercise, and can lead to a more efficient workout as a result.
Good posture engages all your muscle groups, rather than putting excess strain on just a few. This also reduces your risk of injury—for instance, an engaged core and lower back will reduce your odds of being injured while doing squats or deadlifts, which means you don’t have to spend time at home recovering from a preventable injury.
8. Look taller and slimmer
When you compare this final benefit of good posture to everything else, it might seem a little silly, but we think of it as the cherry on top. The simple fact is that good posture makes people look better. When your head, neck, shoulders, spine, and hips are in alignment, you can actually gain a little bit of height. It also prevents parts of your body from bulging out unnecessarily, and can even make abdominal muscles appear more defined in some body types. If you needed another reason to focus on your posture, this is it!
Getting your posture under control
As you can see, there are lots of benefits to having great posture. But even still, it can be a real challenge to stay focused on it all of the time. That’s where I can help! Posture is completely intertwined with every service I offer, from physiotherapy, to clinical pilates, to stretch therapy. You can think of good posture habits as the glue that makes sure these treatments stick and continue to benefit you for a long time to come.
I’ll evaluate your posture, help you to notice any areas you can improve, and work with you to build great habits that will last you a lifetime.
To learn more or to set up an initial assessment, contact me today!