By: Laurie Larson
Good posture is for more than appearances. While good posture is important for people’s impression of you, making you appear more confident, taller, slimmer, and younger, there are even more health reasons for why it worth consciously working on how you sit, stand, and sleep.
So how is good posture defined and what can you do if you have poor posture? Here’s why posture matters and tips for consciously correcting your posture.
What is Proper Posture?
Proper posture has to do with proper alignment of your body and positioning as it relates to the force of gravity on your body, where gravity has constant pressure on our joints, muscles, and ligaments.
You want to make sure that no one structure or part of your body is receiving more than its fair share of stress from the effects of gravity. Poor posture in this regard can have to do with inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion or muscle strength issues that impact balance.
According to Harvard Medical School, good posture means: chin parallel to the floor; shoulders even; no flexing or arching of the spine; arms at sides with elbows straight and even; abdominal muscles braced; even hips; even knees that are pointed straight ahead; and weight of body distributed equally on both feet.
Why Posture Matters
There are several reasons besides appearance and impression to others for why good posture is important:
- Breathe Easier. Sitting hunched over at your desk can cause you restricted airways, while not straightening your back while sitting or standing can put added pressure on your lungs. For people with panic attacks, restricted airways can make it longer to recover.
- Combat Effects of Gravity. Gravity is a never ending force on our bodies, and good posture allows for the effects of gravity to be evenly distributed throughout our bodies. You don’t want certain muscle groups or structures to work too much harder than others in your body.
- Digest Food Easier. Slouching causes more pressure on your internal organs, which impacts digestion, in addition to constipation, acid reflux, and hernias.
Tips for Sitting, Standing, and Sleeping Postures
It’s never too late to improve your posture; however, if you have long-term postural issues, it will take longer of a conscious effort to make daily postural corrections. Often your joints can adapt to long standing postural defects, making it hard to even detect yourself where you posture needs improving.
See ACA guidelines for what constitutes good posture when standing, sitting, and sleeping.
Sitting Posture Tips
Back pain can be a warning sign of poor posture, especially when sitting in a chair all day long at work. Be aware of pain that starts in the neck and works its way down to the shoulders and back, or pain that goes away once you change positions.
While sitting down at work, take advantage of the chair’s features. Take time to align your ears, shoulders, and hips vertically. Remember that any prolonged position will take a toll on your body and energy. You can ease the work of back muscles by shifting from using the back rest to shifting forward closer to the edge of your seat.
You should avoid at all times hunching your shoulders, crossing your legs unevenly, or tilting your head upward. Remember to get up and move in your office regularly, and change positions frequently.
Standing Posture Tips
In order to look taller, slimmer, and younger, not to mention improve your long-term health, when standing, take conscious effort to improve your posture. Pretend you are standing up against a wall to measure your height. Remember to hold your head straight and tuck in your chin. Remember to keep your shoulders back, knees straight, and keep your stomach tucked in. Don’t let your backside or hips stick out. Stretch your head out toward the sky.
Sleeping Posture Tips
To maintain good sleeping posture, it is important that you invest in the right sleeping structure, including a firm mattress, not one that is saggy and soft. It’s also important that you choose the right pillow for your sleeping position to keep your spine in proper alignment. If you are a side sleeper, slightly bend your knees but don’t hug them, and place your pillow underneath your head so that your head is level with your spine. If you are a back sleeper, use a smaller pillow rather than a big, puffy one that you put directly under your neck.
Identifying that you have a postural issue is half the battle, where the remaining half involves making conscious, everyday modifications and adjustments to how you sit, stand, and sleep, in order to reverse what can be years of poor posture. Your body and energy levels will thank you!