Proper posture may not have been top of mind for our ancestors who spent most hours of the day actively engaged in physical work. However, today’s digitized world has led to increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Our bodies had evolved to move, and yet we are now spending the majority of our time sitting in front of screens. With less motion in our lives, paying attention to the subtleties of our posture has never been more important.
Posture has a huge impact on our overall health and sense of well-being. First, consider the body language of someone who is feeling low energy or depressed - they might shrink back or hunch forward as a way to withdraw. Now consider your posture when you zero into a work project or sink into scrolling. We slink, we slouch, we hunch, we lean. We unconsciously affect our mood and energy levels by assuming the same depressed posture. Not to mention, when we hold our bodies improperly, we create more opportunities to develop physical aches and pains.
Good posture not only strengthens our muscles, but it helps clear our minds. It allows more air to enter our lungs, for a fuller breath that can travel throughout the brain and body, giving us greater mental clarity, awareness and focus.
To maintain good posture, sit straight up and push your hips back into your chair. This will give you the physical support you need to keep your muscles in the right position. You will discover that your body instantly becomes much more fresh and alert when it is stacked and supporting itself properly as it was designed to.
13 Benefits to Enjoy When You Improve Your Posture
When we have good posture, the spine is neutral and the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and supporting the body equally.
Wondering if you have good posture? Let’s do a quick check-in….
When sitting, your feet should rest flat on the floor with even weight on both hips. Your back is mostly straight, with the exception of natural curves. Your shoulders are back and relaxed, with your ears in line over your collarbone. When standing, your legs should have a slight knee bend so you're not hyperextending or locking your knee joints.
Once you become aware of how you hold yourself and begin practising good posture, you can look forward to all kinds of health benefits, such as...
1 - Better Energy Levels
Our bodies have evolved from a single cell to work as a complex, well-oiled machine. When our parts fall out of alignment, every action takes more effort, and processes begin to slow down. When your bones and joints are in correct alignment, your muscles can work more efficiently as they’re intended, and your blood can flow more freely - which means less fatigue and more energy.
2 - Reduced Neck & Shoulder Strain
When you look at your phone, do you hold it straight out in front of you or do you look towards the ground? It’s not unusual to fall into a downward stare. Unfortunately, the chronic overuse of a forward head posture puts a strain on the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas.
By making an effort to maintain proper alignment, the joints and ligaments become less stressed. After only a week or two of looking ahead instead of down, you’ll begin to notice reduced tension in your neck and shoulders. In the meantime, for additional relief, try applying heat or ice to the strained areas.
3 - Less Wear and Tear on the Joints
We all have our creature comfort poses. We may give preference to one leg over another when we stand, we may cross our legs, or contort our bodies in any number of ways. It’s just how we do. And yet, crooked sitting and standing can lead to hip strain.
Your joints wear down naturally over time but If your posture is even, you can reduce the impact time has on each joint. However an uneven body can lead to unnecessary pain and issues down the road. The more you work at strengthening your core and your posture, the more natural good posture poses will start to feel.
4 - Increased lung capacity
When you want to get in a good yawn, you stretch it out, your chest expands, and you take in all that great oxygen and its mind-stimulating benefits. Yawns force us to physically open up, and equally, consciously maintaining an open chest ads volume from breath to breath. Slouching, on the other hand, compresses your lungs. When you sit or stand tall, your lungs have more space to expand, which improves your breathing.
If you feel like you don’t have the best lung capacity in the world, you can give it a boost simply by sitting up with good, tall posture and opening up your lungs with three deep breaths a few times a day.
5 - Better digestion
Just like your lungs, if you’re hunched forward, you’re compressing your vital organs which results in poor circulation and organ function. Proper body alignment allows for healthy blood flow. This means avoiding positions that tend to cramp circulation, like crossing your legs.
To ensure good posture at your desk, sit your hips at the back of the chair and ensure your feet are both on the ground to improve support. A lumbar roll can be very useful along your lower back to assist with maintaining this posture. Keep your shoulders back and your neck muscles relaxed. Again, what feels like work at first will soon become a matter of muscle memory and a most valuable lifelong habit.
6 - More Refreshing Walks
Sitting is now understood to be as dangerous as smoking, so it’s no surprise that fitness bracelets have drastically increased in popularity over the last decade. If you don’t already have a reminder set, then make a point to get up from your desk at least twice an hour. To reset your body, focus on maintaining good posture during those bi-hourly walks.
Researchers have discovered that a slow, slumped walk actually drains us of our energy. Meanwhile, adding a skip to our step significantly increases energy levels. Think of the carefree energy of a child, and it makes sense. Maybe skipping to the staff lunchroom is not your style, but skipping up or down the stairs might be a suitable sneaky substitute to get a quick energy boost.
7 - A More Relaxed Jaw
Sometimes when we’re focused on a major work project, driving in rush hour traffic, or getting sucked into any of life’s other dramas, our mandibular joint and jaw muscles experience the direct effects of our stress and tension. This can contribute to ongoing pain, clicking sounds, and headaches.
A stressful situation is only made worse by pain, so it is important to remember to relax your jaw whenever you find yourself tightening up in such difficult scenarios. This will help release the tension in your neck and upper shoulders and should reduce the effects of TMJ pain.
8 - Increased Self-Confidence
Fake it until you make it, is what some might say. In fact, science shows that there is clearly some truth to that. Perhaps you have already seen Amy Cuddy’s famous Ted Talk and her insights on how posture changes our hormone levels? Well, a further study by researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities (Amy Cuddy et al) showed that body language symbolizing power can actually affect our decision-making, subconsciously.
Researchers measured the inclination for risk of participants in either expansive, powerful poses, or constricted poses that occupied minimal space by keeping the limbs close to the body. Those in the powerful poses not only felt more powerful and in control but were 45% more likely to take a risky bet.
9 - More Balanced Hormones
The same study as mentioned above also used saliva samples to prove that expansive postures actually altered the participants’ hormone levels, decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone) and increasing testosterone (the male sex hormone). Incredibly, the neuroendocrine profile of High Testosterone and Low Cortisol has been consistently linked to such outcomes as disease resistance and leadership abilities. That said, don’t be afraid to take up space! Good posture doesn’t only convey great confidence, but it helps to inspire the hormonal balance to support it too.
10 - Better memory recall
Your body is a physical reflection of how you are feeling. As mentioned earlier, a slouched posture is a depressed posture. When we are hunched forward in a defeated pose, it is much easier to dredge up memories associated with that position – ones that might foster feelings of being powerless, hopeless or helpless. On the other hand, when we sit upright, we are giving our body the proper physical support to stir up confident, happy memories or at least maintain a more positive outlook on life in general.
11 - Fewer headaches
Do you suffer from frequent headaches? Maybe it’s a challenging co-worker that causes you to cringe or your morning commute that triggers the throbbing, but poor posture can be a big contributor to tension headaches, due to increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. Once we correct our posture, we can gradually reduce muscle tension, resulting in fewer headaches.
Naturally, headaches are personal, and so prevention measures will differ. If practising proper posture is not yielding the results you want, try adding more core exercises and pectoral stretches into your routine.
12 - Better Core Strength
When talking about the benefits of maintaining good posture, we can’t overlook the obvious benefits it has on your core. We spend so much time focusing on our abs at the gym, and yet good posture is one of the best things we can do to improve core strength.
Good posture may look easy, but it actually requires some mindful effort as it requires us to keep our core and upper back muscles actively engaged. This subtle alignment kept while sitting and standing will help your core to get stronger every day - and make it easier to maintain good posture too.
13 - Reduced low back pain
As above, so below. While being mindful of our neck, shoulders and upper back, we must also consider how sitting or standing in a slouched position can put stress on the lower back. More specifically, it puts pressure on the posterior structures of the spine, including the intervertebral discs, ligaments, and muscles.
To combat lower back pain, stretch your chest and work to strengthen your core and upper back muscles. Over time, you’ll experience a noticeable reduction in pain.
If you feel that your posture is affecting your life, Life Force Physio can help! Give us a call to book your assessment and get on the straight path to health.
* Please be aware that information on this web site is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding an injury or medical condition.