Good posture has always been a thing that your parents nagged you about as a child… at least mine did! However as an Osteopath I’m seeing all sorts of posture all day everyday…. Well except for this current lock down period!
Why posture is important, well here’s why…
Either sitting properly or standing and walking properly helps you keep your body healthy. Believe it or not it’s not just a thing of the past with people walking around with books on their head like my grandmother was taught, or military commands of ‘chest out shoulders back’. When we have good position it optimises all sorts of other physiological changes in the body… by that I mean that the body systems was all work much better.
Here’s what it does…
1. Lower Back relief
Your body is designed to stand in a “neutral” position in which your pelvis, head, and torso are in a stacked position but with ease. Head poked forwards, tilted hips, and overly curved spines puts much stress on muscles, ligaments, nerves and connective tissues (fascia) all of which means that these structures become used in ways they aren’t designed to endure. Similarly over long period of time this stress can cause the joints to become stiff and compressed and irritable resulting in pain – usually in your back. When you have good posture, you use all these structures effectively to support your spine properly. Believe it or not spines like movement so one things that they don’t like is to be held rigid. Standing and sitting with good posture uses your muscles in the way they were designed, so your body – especially your back – feels better.
2. Better breathing
For me the most obvious one is better breathing. Research shows that poor posture negatively affects your ability to breathe deeply and fill your lungs. If you’re slouching you are shortens the muscles at the front of your body and compressing your lungs and diaphragm which reduces your ability to breathe in fully. If you’re sitting and standing taller your lungs have more room to expand and may actually improve your ability to bring in good old oxygen by as much as 30%..Try this…..hunch over and curl your shoulders in… now try and take a deep breathe in. What does it feel like, did you feel like you could breathe in deeply and open the front on the chest well. Probably not. This type of curled forward or Kyphotic posture makes it very hard for the lungs to expand as it’s being restricted by your rib cage. Equally if your chin is dragging your head forwards too, it makes it even harder for the front of the chest to expand.
Slouching and drooping of your shoulders can create unnecessary tension across the upper back and shoulders that contributes to headaches. Also those people whose chin leads the head forwards will also place some considerable strain on the back of their neck, particularly the upper neck creating a chronic overuses picture which can lead to headaches. Such forward head posture can increase the loading and compressive forces in the neck area from 10lb for people with good posture to 60lbs for people with poor posture.
4. Increased energy levels
When all of our structures controlling posture are working correctly we become more efficient and therefore less fatigued. There are different types of muscles, for posture we use our ‘slow twitch’ muscles i.e. our postural muscles as they are designed to work at a lower level for longer, hours even which is just what they do when they support you in a range of different postures all day every day. The ‘fast twitch’ muscles are the ones we call prime movers and are designed to contract at force so things like the biceps muscle used when lifting up a kettle or a weight in your hand etc. However these work maximally for short periods of time. When posture is poor and the postural muscles are weak and become overused the fast twitch muscles take over, however they struggle to keep working all day and fatigue quickly causing pain tightness and even muscle spasm. So it’s all about good posture… slow and steady like the turtle and the hare!
5. Improved mood
Your posture affects your mood. Think of how a person looks when they’re depressed – slouched and slumped with shoulders that hunch and a head that hangs. When you feel relaxed and happy, you naturally find an upright, open posture. If you’re feeling down, stand up, pull your shoulders back, and lift your face, you’re more likely to see somebody smiling at you!
6. Better digestion and circulation
When you have good posture, your vital organs will work better. Both your chest and organs in your tummy have more space and can work better facilitating the free flow of food and digestive juices and blood flow. A slouched posture inhibits the normal activity of your gastrointestinal system, which makes you vulnerable to digestive distress – including constipation and GERD and impedes the natural blood flow making circulation less effective.
7. Super self-confidence
When you stand up tall, you have a presence that’s noticed by others. You look confident, self-assured, and poised. Slouching and slumping communicates a sad demeanor and a lack of self-esteem. So make a point of checking in on your posture especially before an important event or meeting!
8. Greater function as you age
Your posture affects how your body ages. If you stand or sit with poor posture, it causes stress on your soft tissues such as muscles ligaments and in particular at your joints – which can make you feel achy and stiff as you age. Good posture throughout a lifetime can keep you feeling mobile as you get older. As an added bonus, you also look younger.
9. Reduced the risk of falls.
Those people who are constantly slumping forward and looking at the ground especially when walking are more likely fall as they their centre of gravity is much further forward and everything is working inefficiently. A good posture means that all the postural muscles in your body are functioning well, and your centre of gravity is good, and you are likely to have better balance.
10. Improved concentration
Good posture can play a role in comes improved oxygen flow and circulation which positively affects your brain. This is nerve cells in your brain appreciate the nutrients that come with increased circulation that’s facilitated by good posture too.
11. Look skinnier
Good posture can make you look taller and thinner. Poor posture can create the appearance of a pot belly and a thicker middle. Stand or sit up tall, and lengthen your frame – the pounds distribute more evenly and make you look more slender……What’s not to like… Bonus!
So in PART TWO we’ll look at tips to help you with improving your posture! Watch this space