Most of us will have childhood memories of being told to ‘stop slouching’ or ‘stand up straight’. It’s a part of growing up, but it’s something you’ve heard so often that you might not take it seriously anymore.
Now might be the time to start.
It turns out that poor posture can cause all sorts of problems that could have a huge impact on your overall health. The diagram below shows what good and bad posture looks like. We can see that the best example involves a straight back and no hunched shoulders. Which one best describes you right now?
Here are five reasons why keeping your back straight should find its way onto your to-do list.
You’ll be the best version of you
Your posture affects your ability to walk, run and do just about any physical activity. You’ll be amazed at how much better shape you’re in once you improve it.
Relieving some of the pressure on your muscles and joints will mean your body requires less energy to perform simple tasks like getting out of a chair, so you’ll feel fresher even after a long day.
If you sometimes find it hard to keep your balance, it turns out you can thank bad posture for that too! As this study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada shows, centring your weight over your feet is important for maintaining your balance.
You’ll breathe more easily
Yes, even breathing is a challenge if your posture isn’t great. Sitting in a crumpled position can constrict your airways and make it difficult to catch your breath. Not straightening your back also leaves your ribcage in an unnatural position, which puts added pressure on your lungs.
This is particularly important advice for anyone who is prone to panic attacks. Not being able to catch your breath is one of the most frightening symptoms here, and poor posture can make it even more difficult to regain your composure.
You’ll defeat gravity
While we can all agree that gravity is a good thing, for those with poor posture it can be the silent cause of many problems. Gravity is exerting a force on your muscles, joints and soft tissue 24 hours a day, and poor posture can make this burden hard to handle.
Essentially, good posture allows the effects of gravity to be felt evenly across your whole body. Bad posture means that some of your joints and muscles are having to work harder than they should. That could spell trouble in the long term.
You’ll avoid injury
Over time, putting too much pressure on your joints causes connective tissue to wear away. This results in your bones rubbing against each other, which is not only uncomfortable but will also lead to conditions such as arthritis in the long run.
Your spine will also feel the strain of poor posture. Too much pressure here increases the likelihood of a slipped disc or trapped nerve.
You’ll look more confident
Perception is everything, and as this TED Talk from social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains, good posture can have a huge impact on how others see you.
Standing up straight adds height and authority to your figure, while you’ll also look slimmer and younger. Who wouldn’t want that? In contrast, a slouched, slumped posture tends to be associated with people who are unhappy or introverted.
You’ll digest food more easily
When slouched, your body is actually putting pressure on your internal organs, which makes digestion more difficult.
Poor posture has been cited as a potential cause of medical problems such as constipation, acid reflux and hernias, so it’s worth seeing whether or not sitting up straight could help here.
What causes poor posture and how can you improve it?
The reason you probably find it so annoying to be told not to slouch is that you’re probably not doing it on purpose. There are all sorts of explanations for why your posture might be poor and in most cases it’s nothing to do with laziness.
You’ll be glad to know that it’s never too late to correct your posture, so let’s take a look at how you can address some of the main causes of bad posture.
Sitting down a lot
If your job involves sitting behind a desk, it’s difficult to maintain good posture. Sitting in one position for eight hours a day is likely to make your muscles and joints feel very stiff.
Investing in some adequate back support and getting up for a walk occasionally is a good start. One of the more radical solutions is standing desks, although while some people love them, standing for a full working day can leave you feeling equally as achy.
The fact that large numbers of people spend their day behind a desk is a matter many are concerned about, so much so that even the government are getting involved commissioning studies into alternative working practices.
Lack of core muscle strength
Your core muscles are found in your chest, stomach, back, sides, hips, buttocks and even legs. If these muscles aren’t maintained, it becomes harder to achieve good posture, while if they’re too tight, this can pull parts of your body into positions that lead to poor posture.
Exercises that strengthen your core, such as yoga, will leave you in a better position to correct your posture in the long run, while stretching exercise will help loosen up your muscles and ensure correct alignment.
No surprises here. Simply put, if you weigh more, it’s more difficult to hold and maintain a good posture. Studies have shown that obese people find it more difficult to carry out tasks involving balance and flexibility, so it’s time to kick start that new exercise plan you’ve been putting off!
It’s important to be aware of your posture while you’re pregnant. Naturally, with the extra weight a baby brings, it can be hard to maintain good posture and this is why backache and pelvic pain is a problem for many pregnant women.
To help manage this, work on your pelvic floor muscles to ensure your body is able to cope with the increased workload and stick to comfortable, functional shoes.
The National Posture Institute cites high heels as a key cause of posture problems. While it’s arguably one of the less prominent posture issues, wearing high heels leaves your body at an unnatural angle, so your spine and hips shift and flex in order to keep you balanced.
This puts extra pressure on your knees and leg muscles, which can take its toll over time. Wearing high heels every now and then is fine, but try to limit the occasions when you wear them and stick to flats if possible.
If you’ve spent years sitting or standing in ways that aren’t good for your posture, it can be tough to break the cycle.
Doing so will take plenty of willpower, but it can be done. Practice makes perfect, so try and get your shoulders, elbows, hips and knees aligned, keep your head up and back straight and make sure your weight is distributed evenly across both feet.
Check your posture in the mirror before you leave for work each day. It seems like a lot of work, but it’ll quickly become as natural to you as slouching may feel now.
See a doctor about your posture
If you’re experiencing aches and pains, it could be due to your posture. Our doctors will be able to assess your posture in a video consultation and recommend small changes that could make all the difference to your long term health.
You can book an appointment to suit your schedule, or you can see a doctor right away and get the peace of mind you need.