Posture is important for health, we all know this and yet many of us don’t appear to give it much thought or try to rectify bad posture. Good posture is also a vital component of being a successful athlete and a more attractive individual whereas poor posture leaves you prone to muscular pain, injury and a less than desirable appearance.
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity when you are standing, sitting or lying down. To have good posture you must train your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions which place the least amount of strain on ligaments, joints and supporting muscles.
Good posture helps to:
- Prevent back ache and muscular pain.
- Prevent overuse problems.
- Prevent fatigue. Good posture is a more efficient use of energy, bad posture often uses more energy as it places more stress on ligaments and muscles.
- Make you look your very best.
- Keep your skeletal frame in correct alignment so that muscles are being utilised correctly.
- Decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces.
- Prevent the spine from becoming fixed in an abnormal and harmful position.
Poor posture can develop from positioning yourself badly on a daily basis, extended periods of standing/sitting/lying down, muscular weakness and muscular imbalances which can result from overtraining certain muscle groups or injury.
How To Get Good Posture
When a person is standing, posture is very noticeable. A straight back (the spine should curve in a natural slight ‘S’ shape), squared shoulders, chin up, chest out and stomach pulled in are all signs of good posture. You should ensure that you distribute your weight equally through your feet when standing; this is something that most people struggle with as they tend to lean to one side when they relax. People with good posture generally give off an air of confidence and can assert themselves in a room because good posture portrays assertiveness, self confidence and pride in your appearance.
If you can draw a straight line (an imaginary one, you don’t need to draw on yourself) from your ear through your shoulder, hip, knees and arrive at the middle of your ankle then you have good posture.
In today’s society, many of us spend 30+ hours each week in a seated position at a desk. When we are not seated at a desk we are sitting in our car, sitting watching TV..you get the picture.
To maintain good posture in a seated position you need to do the following:
- Ensure that your glutes are touching the back of the chair, with your back straight and your shoulders back.
- Your sitting position should support the three normal curves of the spine, if your chair does not support these curves you may want to consider using additional lumbar support on the back of your chair.
- Your weight should be distributed evenly through your hips. Legs should not be crossed and you should not be leaning on one arm of the chair.
- Ideally, your knees should be at a 90⁰ angle and be in line with your hips.
- You should avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time. See: Keep Active.
If you become used to sleeping in awkward positions, it can be very damaging to your joints, muscle strength and posture making it more likely that you will also stand and sit in a poor manner and leave yourself vulnerable to injury.
To sleep in the best position possible, you should:
- Sleep with your head on the pillow, but not your shoulders. Your pillow should be a height which supports the neck and does not distort your head, neck and upper back alignment.
- As with a seated position, your sleeping position should support the curves in your back.
- The two best positions for supporting your back in a good postural position are sleeping on your side with knees slightly bent or sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees or lumbar support.
- A firm mattress is best for good postural alignment, although if you are used to a soft mattress the change in mattress could also be damaging.
- You should try to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this can place a lot of pressure on your lower back, shoulders and neck.
When our muscles get tired this is when slouching and poor posture becomes most likely, putting extra pressure on our neck and back. In order to maintain a relaxed yet supported posture, you should change positions frequently. Just standing up, going for a short walk or stretching every so often will help you to avoid sitting in a terrible position for an extended period of time. You can also opt for sitting on a gym ball instead of an office chair for a few hours each day. This will prevent you from being sedentary for extended periods of time and will engage your core muscles, strengthening them for better posture and improving your body composition too!
Keeping fit will also help with posture as it helps us to stay conditioned, strong and improve our stamina. Good posture will in turn further help to condition the muscles, prevent injury and show off your muscles in the best way possible. In particular, a balance in trunk strength is vital. People often overwork their abdominals, leaving their back weaker and causing postural problems. Balancing core and back strength will help to support the upper body and maintain a good posture.
Stretching is a great way to relieve body tension which helps to improve posture, reduce aches and pains, improve circulation and improve mood. As we already know, maintaining a sedentary position for an extended period of time is not good for us, particularly a sitting position. Sitting is very tough on the body, it can negatively impact the nervous system (give you a numb bum!), reduce blood flow to the extremities and place stress on joints which are not designed to be positioned in a certain way for a long time.
Stretching the spine with slow and controlled twisting motions, curving the spine and hyper-extending it help to reduce the problems associated with an inflexible back which include neck, shoulder and chest pain and occasionally trapped nerves which can cause reduce the range of motion in the upper torso and legs.
Stretching also helps to alleviate muscle tightness which results from poor posture and bad body alignment. For example, if you regularly carry a bag on one side of your body it leads to postural imbalances and therefore muscle tightness on one side.
The Benefits Of Good Posture:
- Confidence/ positive mind frame
- Enhanced respiratory capacity
- Improved circulation
- Improved digestion
- Slimmer appearance
- Enhanced voice/sound
- Healthy spine
- Strong core
- Protected joints
- Relaxed and optimally functioning muscles
If you want to look and feel great, function optimally and avoid injury you need to put a small amount of effort in each day to ensure that you maintain a good posture and do not develop bad habits which may have painful and harmful consequences.