Correct Posture: Good Posture is Important
It is important to have a correct posture. Of course, there is an aesthetic component to good posture; standing up straight and proud will help you to look strong and confident. However, there is far more to a correct posture than just looking good!
Maintaining a correct posture offers many long-term physical and mental health benefits. Likewise, there are some serious medical and mental health complications that can arise from having poor posture.
How we hold ourselves is not something that most of us automatically think of. We tend to opt for whatever feels most comfortable and natural at the time. However, becoming more mindful of maintaining a better posture, regardless of whether you are standing up, sitting down, moving around or engaging in physical activity, pays dividends.
A correct posture can help to prevent injuries, aches, muscle pains, headaches and can even affect how you feel about yourself and your day-to-day mood.
Posture: Understanding the basics of a ‘correct posture’
The word ‘posture’ refers to how you hold your physical body at any given point in time. There are two types of posture to be aware of:
Static posture - Static posture is how you hold your physical body when you are not moving. Static posture is relevant to when you are standing, sitting or lying down. Basically, any position that you adopt whilst keeping relatively still.
Dynamic posture - Dynamic posture applies to how you position your body when taking part in any physical activity. This applies to any form of movement or exercise (i.e walking, running, swimming, gym activity, etc.) as well as carrying things, picking things up, and putting things down.
Both static and dynamic posture are equally as important. Maintaining good long-term static and dynamic posture is essential in preventing pain and injury and in promoting good overall wellbeing.
Posture and health – How they are linked
There are many ways in which a poor posture can be bad for your health, especially in the long term. Most of us are aware that slouching, slumping, tensing etc., is not great for our physical health, but not all of us are aware of how these deviations from good posture can adversely affect our mental health.
A poor posture carries the following health risks and complications:
- In extreme cases of long-term poor static posture, the spine can become eroded. This increases the spine's susceptibility to injury, making it far more fragile.
- Poor static and dynamic posture can affect your sleep quality and your ability to sleep comfortably without pain. This in turn can affect your day-to-day mood and energy levels.
- Misalignment of the musculoskeletal system (poor static posture) often results in neck, shoulder and back pain, amongst other symptoms.
- A poor static posture can impair your flexibility and mobility, especially your joint mobility.
- Holding a poor posture whilst sitting, standing or sleeping can increase both the frequency and intensity of headaches
- Poor dynamic and static posture affects your ability to balance and increases your risk of falling or tripping over, and sustaining an injury
- Incorrect posture whilst lifting can easily result in a muscle or disc injury, especially to the lumbar and cervical spine
- Wrong static posture impairs blood flow to organs, tissues and muscles, resulting in them working less efficiently
- Incorrect posture can contribute to a low mood and can also be reflective of low mood, anxiety and stress.
- Incorrect static posture can affect how you breathe and even how you digest your food
- The wrong posture can contribute to lack of confidence and also be reflective of it
Posture is such an easy thing to correct in most cases. Just being more mindful and subsequently correcting your posture can improve your mood and reduce pain, as well as offering several long-term health benefits.
How to correct your posture
Thankfully, improving your posture is relatively simple, that's not to say it's always easy.
In order to improve your posture, you must first become aware of when your posture needs altering. This means frequently checking how you are holding yourself and making alterations where needed. The more you correct your posture, the more it will feel natural to maintain a good posture during times where you are not being mindful.
So what does a good posture look like?
Most of us think that a good posture is as simple as standing up straight and avoiding slouching, but it can go much further than that.
Good posture extends to the muscles and in releasing any tension. Many of us are unaware of when we are holding tension, especially in our upper body. Living a stressful life and suffering poor mental health can cause untold problems for us posture-wise.
Check your posture now!
How are you holding yourself? Is your spine as straight as it can be? Are you balancing your weight equally on both sides? Are your shoulders held high, hunched, rounded or retaining tension? What are your feet doing, are they curled or relaxed and flat? Is your neck straight or bent over?
Spinal positioning is key to a correct posture. Holding your spine in a poor posture results in muscle tension, leading you to feel more stressed and less confident.
The human spine naturally has three curves. These curves are in the neck, mid-back and lower back. Holding a good posture will maintain these natural curves, neither increasing nor decreasing them. The top of your head should be over your centre of gravity, your hips.
Your centre of gravity is the balance point in your body, the point where your upper and lower body are equally balanced in weight. For most people their centre of gravity is just below the belly button, above the hips and half way between the lower back and stomach. It's the point at which your upper and lower body weight is balanced.
In addition to holding your spine correctly, your shoulder blades should be slightly pulling together at the back. This opens up the chest area and improves breathing. Your shoulders should be away from your neck and ears, in a relaxed down position. Just checking where your shoulders are and pushing your shoulders gently back and down automatically releases tension and opens up the chest.
Mindfully checking your posture throughout the day will help you to correct it, and to become more aware of when your posture is adversely affecting your levels of comfort and tension.
What helps maintain a correct posture?
There are a few things that will affect your natural ability to maintain a good posture. If posture is something you have never paid much attention to, join the club!
Implementing the following simple measures will automatically contribute to a better posture and in turn better health and comfort.
Tips for maintaining a good posture include:
Staying active - any form of physical activity will help with mobility, balance and good posture. Some forms of physical activity are more helpful than others. Activities that combine mindfulness with the physical body are particularly helpful. Examples of such activities include Yoga, Tai Chi, Calisthenics, swimming, and weightlifting. In all of these activities posture and mindfulness of posture and breathing are vital. In return, regular practice of such activities can help to build a strong core and back which will support your spinal health.
Maintaining a healthy weight - Carrying excess weight, especially around your abdomen, throws off your centre of gravity. Over time, this can displace your spine through pulling at your core.
Wearing appropriate footwear - Footwear can have a huge impact on your day-to-day posture and not just during physical activity. Most of us appreciate the importance of wearing appropriate footwear when engaging in physical activity and exercise, but it is also the day-to-day footwear that we wear that can really make a difference.
Improving your current posture
If you are wondering how you can improve your current posture, whether static or dynamic, the following simple steps can help:
- Try to stand as tall as possible, as if you had a string pulling the top of your head to the sky. Push your shoulders down and back to keep your collar bone straight and broad.
- Pull the bottom of your stomach inwards and try to place most of your weight on the balls of your feet
- Keep your feet shoulder length apart when standing and allow your arms to hang naturally by your sides
- When walking, maintain a proper heel-toe gait, keeping your feet pointing hip-width apart
- Ensure you are breathing evenly and regularly. To assist with this try some slow deep breaths to start, holding in and exhaling slowly. After ten of these breaths, let your breathing naturally return to a healthy regular pattern.
Maintaining correct posture at work
Many of us spend numerous hours a day at a desk looking at a computer, or seated at a reception point or money till. How you sit during working hours can have a huge impact on your overall health and comfort levels.
Anyone who spends significant amounts of time sitting down, which most of us do, should be mindful and pay attention to their posture. Adopting the correct posture during working hours can save you a lot of discomfort and pain, not only during working hours, but during your downtime also.
The following tips will help you to maintain a healthy posture whilst sitting down at work:
- Keep moving - Ensure you keep your body moving when sitting down for lengthy periods of time. Switch positions often and take mini walks and stretch your legs and spine.
- Avoid crossing your legs - Crossing your legs can lead to muscle tension through the hips and reduce blood flow to muscles in the legs. Instead, sit with both feet on the floor, ankles slightly in front of your knees. If the balls of your feet do not comfortably touch the floor, use a footstool to support them.
- Stretch every couple of hours - Stretching eases and mitigates muscle tension
- Keep your shoulders relaxed - neither balled up or tightly pulled back. Keep your elbows close to your body, bent somewhere between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Ensure that any work surfaces are at an appropriate height - This helps to prevent slouching and over stretching to use them.
- Support your back, thighs and hips - Use pillows or other back supports, make sure your seat is well-padded, that your spine’s lower curve is firmly supported and that your thighs and hips are in a line parallel to the ground.
- Place your screen eye level - This ensures your neck is not bent overlooking downwards
- Wiggle your toes, fingers and move your arms and legs every so often - This helps to keep blood and oxygen circulating as it should, releasing lactic acid build-up
- If you feel tension anywhere, get up from your desk and move around to release it
Surprising risks of poor posture you may not be aware of
Having a poor posture carries obvious risks to your spinal health and tension in muscles. However, there are some risks associated with poor posture that you may not be aware of
Surprising risks associated with poor posture:
- Constipation - How you sit on the toilet can affect the effectiveness of your bowel movements. Hunched over your knees, reading a magazine or looking at your phone, can in fact contribute to constipation and make an existing problem worse. If you can, try to raise your knees, and sit up straight. Having a footstool is handy for raising the knees above hip level, this opens up the pelvis and allows gravity to assist without straining.
- Heartburn and digestion problems - A slouched posture after eating can trigger acid reflux, pushing the acid upwards instead of allowing it to sit in the stomach and digest food. This in turn can lead to very uncomfortable and even painful heartburn. Slouching after a meal also reduces the cavity space of the stomach, slowing down your natural digestive system. It can be tempting to slouch in a comfortable position after eating a big meal, but this is when it is most important to assume a correct seated posture
- Stress incontinence - Many of us, as we get older, have issues with stress incontinence (especially those of us who have borne children) Slouching forwards increases pressure in the abdomen and bladder and decreases the ability of the pelvic floor to support that pressure effectively. This can mean that when you cough, sneeze or laugh, your pelvic floor is unable to cope, resulting in embarrassing and distressing stress incontinence. To reduce the symptoms of stress incontinence, adopting a good posture can be one of the key things that helps.
Being mindful of your posture
Remember, the most helpful thing to improving and maintaining a good posture is mindfulness. Good posture can take time to obtain and maintain on a frequent and ongoing basis, so patience with yourself is key.
It can be helpful to write yourself a post-it-note and stick it somewhere visible at work to remind yourself to keep “checking in with your posture” and making alterations accordingly.
Good posture can have a real bearing on back and neck problems, which many of us suffer from especially as we age or gain weight. Back pain can be disabling at its worst, so it is important to check that something as simple as your posture is not compounding the problem.
Stress can also be a major contributing factor to poor posture. Implementing mindfulness meditation and exercise to reduce stress can help hugely with releasing muscle tension and offers many additional benefits to assist with a healthy recovery from addiction.
You can access many proven methods of stress reduction within our Wellness Hub, which is dedicated improving to your mind, body and soul.
- Guide to good posture - https://medlineplus.gov/guidetogoodposture.html
- Centre of gravity - https://www.physio-pedia.com/Centre_of_Gravity
- How to sit at your desk correctly NHS https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/
- Surprising risks of poor posture https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-surprising-risks-of-poor-posture