Hello! How many times as a kid did your parents say to you sit up straight!
As a kid you probably didn’t understand why they were telling you that, however in fact there was a very good reason.
As you got older you may have started wondering why is a good posture so important?
There’s actually many reasons and I’ll get into them in a little bit. Having good posture is essential to being totally fit. It’s just as important in the equation of fitness as diet and exercise. It’s often overlooked though, because many people tend to just focus on exercises when they think about fitness.
Posture is defined as the position of your body while standing, sitting, or lying. It’s important to work on your posture because correct posture puts less stress on your body. When your body is in good alignment, your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments can work together more efficiently.
Also, your organs, digestive, respiratory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems can function better. More than 80% of back and neck problems are a result of long term poor posture. However, one good thing is that for most people bad posture can be corrected and improved upon at any age. Below are some reasons people struggle to have good posture.
Why Poor Posture
Society – Sedentary lifestyles at home and work while sitting in bad positions. At home, over long periods of time our posture becomes molded to the shape of our furniture. Many times these aren’t good positions for our body’s alignment.
Injuries – Sometimes injuries from falls, accidents, or sporting activities don’t heal correctly in line with our skeleton. Also, overcompensating movements from these injuries can lead to poor posture. If you have any injury that affects your posture you should get checked by a physician as well.
Driving – Many people like to recline back a little while driving. Doing this can get your spine out of alignment over time.
Mattress – If you have an older mattress that sags a lot, this can cause your whole body to be in a poor position while you sleep.
Overweight – Having extra body weight results in your core being pulled forward. This in turn creates a strain on your back and hip joints.
Shoes – Wearing improper footwear can cause your shoulders, back, and hips to get slightly out of line. Also, high heels tilt your pelvis and trunk forward putting your back in poor alignment. So, if you wear high heels every day you may want to wear them less often.
Slouching – Casually slouching while sitting is easy to do, however doing that can definitely put a strain on your back.
Effects of Long Term Poor Posture
Nervous system – Since the spine is the base of your posture, nerve signals may not transfer properly, this can lead to pinched nerves and pain.
Lungs – Poor posture can put your back in bad positions, this prevents your lungs from filling with optimal amounts of oxygen.
Low Back Pain – Common result of bad posture because your spine is constantly aligned incorrectly, this creates extra stress on your back muscles.
Shoulders and Neck – Your shoulders can become rounded if your head and neck are downward a lot looking at computers or other devices. This can lead to chronic shoulder and neck pain.
Limited Range of Motion – Muscles, ligaments, and tendons can be permanently shortened or stretched. This prevents you from having full mobility with your extremities and major muscles in your body.
Below are some easy ways you can make your posture better in common positions.
Standing – Your head should be up, chin forward, shoulders back, chest out. If you’re in a job where you have to stand all day, take breaks once in awhile to get off your feet.
Sitting – Knees and legs bent to 90 degrees, back straight, shoulders back, ears in line with shoulders. Also, you shouldn’t sit on a wallet.
Sleeping – If sleeping on your side, knees should be bent and head supported by a pillow.
If sleeping on your back, don’t use big pillows under your head, use smaller ones instead.
Using a Computer – The screen should be 15 degrees below eye level. This helps keep your head and neck in a neutral position.
Lifting – Get close to the object and squat down next to it. Firmly grasp the object and slowly lift it by straightening your legs as you stand up.
There are some exercises you can do to help improve your posture and strengthen your back. For exercises on strengthening your back please visit my blog Simple Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles here. Also, doing yoga and stretching exercises are good to help your posture as well, it helps loosen tight muscles in your back and joints.
There is a way to test your posture to see how much you need to improve it. It’s a very simple test you can easily do at home. To do it, you stand with the back of your head touching the wall and your feet 6 inches from the wall.
With your butt touching the wall, check the distance with your hand between your lower back and the wall, and your neck and the wall. If you can get within an inch of your lower back, and 2 inches of your neck, you are considered to have good posture. If not, you should try to improve and work on it.
Summary – When you look at your overall fitness as a puzzle, posture is an important piece of that puzzle. Without it, you’re putting undue stress on areas such as your back, neck, and other major muscles and joints. Posture is easy to overlook, because many of us don’t think about it a lot.
We get very comfortable in our natural movements and positions. However, just because a certain position is comfortable doesn’t mean it’s good for your body. Actually, once you start practicing good posture, you should find that those positions can be comfortable as well.
The ACE (American Council on Exercise) did a great article on posture and how it affects breathing that you can see here. So, the next time you get ready to settle in and watch your tv, just take a few seconds and make sure you’re being kind to your body’s alignment.
If you have any comments or questions please let me know and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading and watch your back!