Why good posture is important and how to check and improve yours
We often spend hour after hour hunched over in front of a computer screen during the day, only to swap it in the evening for another few hours slumped on the couch, unwinding with remote in one hand and smartphone or tablet in the other. And while you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and a few stand-up desks have appeared on the office scene, what wrongs are we trying to right? This blog delves into what ‘good’ posture looks like, why it’s important, and five simple things you can do to improve yours today.
Everything you need to know about good posture
According to the Collins Dictionary, “Your posture is the position in which you stand or sit.” And while it’s not something you give a lot of thought to, good posture will ensure that your body is correctly aligned and the muscles are balanced.
- When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor, and the weight should be even on both hips. Your back should be resting on the chair, and your shoulders should be relaxed. Your knees should be at the same height (or a little lower) than the hips, and there should be a gap between the back of your knees and the chair. Avoid crossing your legs or ankles, and try to keep your forearms and knees parallel to the floor when possible.
- When standing, your knees should have a slight bend so they are not locked, your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart, and your weight should be evenly distributed across the foot. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not rounded or hunched. You should feel as though your body is in one long line from the crown of your head right down your spine, through to your heels.
Why posture is important
While good posture is associated with etiquette and confidence, the real benefits of good postural alignment are health-related. Here are the top health benefits that come with correct alignment:
- A better back – back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States, and sitting or standing in a slouched position puts additional stress on your lower back. Correct posture will eliminate unnecessary stress on all parts of the spine.
- Reduce headaches – bad posture can cause tension headaches, particularly if your neck isn’t being correctly aligned. If your posture is corrected, the muscle tension and headaches will often reduce or disappear altogether.
- Increased energy levels – when your whole body is aligned, your muscles aren’t working overtime to compensate. This leads to less fatigue and higher energy levels.
- Healthy joints – constantly sitting lopsided or standing with most of your weight on one side of the body can lead to premature wearing of your joints. While your joints wear down naturally over time, more problems can occur if your posture isn’t right.
- Breathe freely – research shows that poor posture impacts your ability to take deep, lung-filling breaths. Slouching shortens the muscles around the diaphragm and can restrict the amount of oxygen you’re able to breathe in.
- Digest better – with good posture, not only are your bones and muscles well aligned, but your internal organs have the space they need for optimal digestion. Slouching can inhibit the activity of your gastrointestinal system and cause problems like constipation.
- Tap into the fountain of youth – posture affects how your body ages. Unnecessary stress on joints and connective tissue can cause you to feel achy and stiff, whereas good posture will help you remain mobile as you age.
- Ward off injury – posture affects you while you’re exercising too, and can play a massive role in avoiding injury – particularly when lifting weights.
5 posture-improving tips to implement today
- Don’t be a slouch! – It probably goes without saying, but stand (or sit) up tall, don’t slump, and don’t slouch. Check your posture regularly – whether standing, sitting at your desk, or in the car, and self-correct until it becomes second nature.
- Beware of ‘text neck’ – a term coined to describe the posture of leaning forward or tilting your head down to check messages. Repeating this over and over on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis puts a lot of strain on your spine, so make sure you take time to stretch your neck or, even better, lift your phone to eye level.
- Leave the high heels at home – sky-high shoes not only come with balance risks, but they also really mess with your alignment. Choose chunky lower heels for daily wear, if you really need to wear heels, and save the stilettos for nights out.
- Sleep right – a firm mattress is best for supporting your spine, and your pillow should be just the right size to keep your head level with your spine.
- Focus on abdominal strength – washboard abs aren’t just for showing off at the beach over summer – they are also crucial for supporting your spine. Excess weight around your stomach puts additional stress on your lower back, so incorporate some exercises that target your abdominal muscles into your daily schedule.
Better posture, better health, better life
Correcting your posture is a simple way to improve your health immediately and over the long term. At first, you’ll need to remind yourself to align your body correctly, but it will eventually become second nature.