Because it is Correct Posture Month, we should consider our own posture and think about how good posture is beneficial to our overall health and how poor posture affects much more than just our back and shoulders. Posture, of course, refers to how we position our bodies while we stand or sit or lie down. This does not just apply to backpack-toting children or cane-carrying elders. Everyone should analyze their posture.
Sedentary activities such as driving, reading, playing video games, watching movies, using the computer and such are often performed with very poor posture, but so are many more active pursuits such as gardening, lifting heavy objects, or carrying objects or children.
Poor posture negatively impacts a person’s overall health. Some obvious issues caused by poor posture are chronic back pain, and the subsequent pain medicines and therapies used to treat long-term pain. Poor posture can result in headaches, and jaw pain, again leading to medications which negatively affect overall health. Poor posture places undue stress and strain on the muscles and joints which can lead to arthritis. In my opinion, one of the biggest issues with poor posture is that it cramps the internal organs, especially the lungs, not allowing for full ventilation and thereby depriving one’s entire body of adequate oxygen. This leads to faulty thinking, sluggishness and general malaise. Because the digestive tract is cramped, digestive issues also arise.
Most times we are not aware of how bad our posture is. I find that when I’m tired, it is easy to slouch, and my first realization of poor posture is the discomfort I feel in my neck or back. Sometimes people habitually have poor posture, which can be pointed out to them by means of photographs taken from the front, side and rear view. Some people thrust their head forward, round their shoulders and upper back, and others stand with their hips or shoulders uneven. Both sides of your body should be level when viewed from the front or the back. From the side, there should be a straight line from your ankle to your shoulder and your ear. Good personal trainers address these postural problems before they begin an exercise program with a new client. They may use balance work or realignment work to help the new client develop better posture as they develop better overall health.
The rule of thumb is while standing, is to keep your head held up, your shoulders back and your stomach tucked in. When you sit, keep your legs bent at 90 to 120 degrees perpendicular to the floor, your bottom touching the back of the chair, weight evenly distributed on both hips and both feet flat on the floor. If you are sitting at a desk, rest your arms and elbows on the surface to take the strain off your shoulders. Sitting for lengthy periods of time can lead to fatigue and poor posture. Drink lots of water daily so that you will have to get up and go to the bathroom. While you’re up, do some light stretches too and take some deep breaths to make sure that you are getting some good oxygen flow into your extremities. Not only will you be more hydrated but your posture will improve! While sleeping, try not to pull your knees up to your chest and please don’t sleep face down. The best way to sleep for your perfect posture is to sleep on your side with a slight bend in your knees or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Some people may need to use a lumbar support under the small of their back as well to be comfortable.
Pilates and yoga can assist in balancing the muscles of the body, thereby reducing strain on the skeletal system. A strong core helps immensely in correcting poor postural habits. Almost every client that I work with has some component of Pilates or yoga built into their exercise routine, so that I can ensure that they have a strong core and flexible spine! Train yourself to stand and sit tall and breathe deeply.
Not only does good posture reduce fatigue, prevent strains, back aches, neck pain, headaches, jaw pain, poor circulation and sluggish digestion, it prevents wear and tear on your joints and reduces the possibility of arthritis. You also look better! You can gain additional inches in height with good posture, and well as look more natural in carriage and more elegant in stance.
Jane Riley is a certified nutritional adviser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-1451 and www.janerileyfitness.com