“Stand up straight.” That’s timeless advice we’ve probably all heard at one time or another. It’s worth heeding. Good posture is important to balance: by standing up straight, you center your weight over your feet. This also helps you maintain correct form while exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains. And working on balance can even strengthen your abilities in tennis, golf, running, dancing, skiing and just about any other sport or activity.
How can posture affect your health?
Poor posture can be bad for your health. Slouching or slumping over can:
- Misalign your musculoskeletal system
- Wear away at your spine, making it more fragile and prone to injury
- Cause neck, shoulder, and back pain
- Decrease your flexibility
- Affect how well your joints move
- Affect your balance and increase your risk of falling
- Make it harder to digest your food…oh yes
How to improve posture in general
- Be mindful of your posture during everyday activities, like watching television, washing dishes, or walking
- Stay active. Any kind of exercise may help improve your posture, but certain types of exercises can be especially helpful. They include yoga, tai chi, and other classes that focuses on body awareness. It is also a good idea to do exercises that strengthen your core (muscles around your back, abdomen, and pelvis).
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight can weaken your abdominal muscles, cause problems for your pelvis and spine, and contribute to low back pain. All of these can hurt your posture.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. High heels, for example, can throw off your balance and force you to walk differently. This puts more stress on your muscles and harms your posture.
- Make sure work surfaces are at a comfortable height for you, whether you’re sitting in front of a computer, making dinner, or eating a meal.
How to I improve posture when sitting
Many people spend a lot of their time sitting – either at work, at school, or at home. It is important to sit properly, and to take frequent breaks:
- Switch sitting positions often
- Take brief walks around your office or home
- Gently stretch your muscles every so often to help relieve muscle tension
- Don’t cross your legs; keep your feet on the floor, with your ankles in front of your knees
- Make sure that your feet touch the floor, or if that’s not possible, use a footrest
- Relax your shoulders; they should not be rounded or pulled backwards
- Keep your elbows in close to your body. They should be bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Make sure that your back is fully supported. Use a back pillow or other back support if your chair does not have a backrest that can support your lower back’s curve.
- Make sure that your thighs and hips are supported. You should have a well-padded seat, and your thighs and hips should be parallel to the floor.
How to improve posture when standing
- Stand up straight and tall
- Keep your shoulders back
- Pull your stomach in
- Put your weight mostly on the balls of your feet
- Keep your head level
- Let your arms hang down naturally at your sides
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart
Remember, gravity is always working against you so frequently changing postures is key to prevent muscle fatigue or even more permanent changes to your spine. The BEST posture is often the NEXT posture! Your goal is to spend more time in an optimal position than a dysfunctional one, but even the perfect posture will be tiring over time so wriggle, shift, get up and walk around, stretch, and move every 30 minutes if you can.
1. Kumar, B. Poor posture and its causes. Int Journal of Physical Education and Health. 2016; 3(1): 177-178.
2. Posture: Align yourself for good health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/posture-align-yourself-for-good-health/art-20269950. Published 2019. Accessed February 17, 2019.
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre