Why good posture matters

posture blog

All that nagging from your parents about standing (or sitting) up straight may have seemed nothing but annoying. But turns out they were right about the importance of good posture. Proper posture is actually incredibly important for keeping your body functioning well.

There’s more to good posture than just standing up straight. Think of it as keeping your body in its natural and correct alignment. That doesn’t mean having your back ramrod straight. Your spine has some natural curves to it — at your neck, at the mid back and lower back near your hips.

Good posture allows for those natural curves, without slouching into them. You want to keep your spine in proper alignment by making sure your head is held high, your shoulders line up over your hips, and your hips are over your knees.

How poor posture impacts your health

Slouching around with your shoulders hunched, your spine curled and your head down is not an attractive look. But bad posture is much more than just an aesthetic issue.

When your spine is chronically misaligned due to poor posture, it can lead to several surprising health issues. These can include:

  • Digestive problems: Slouched posture can result in a sluggish digestive system, making food travel more slowly and process less efficiently. It also puts pressure on the abdomen, which can trigger heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Incontinence: Slouching increases pressure on the bladder. For someone already dealing with a weak pelvic floor, that added pressure can lead to more frequent urine leakage.
  • Joint and muscle pain: Not keeping your spine in proper alignment can create imbalances in your body. That imbalance can cause pain in your low back, hips, knees, neck and related muscles.
  • Spinal wear and tear: If the bones in your spine are constantly crunched together due to slouching, it can start to take a toll on your skeleton. Over time, that can make your spine fragile, and more susceptible to injury.
  • Trouble breathing: A rounded back leaves your chest caved in. And when your lungs don’t have the space to fully expand and fill with oxygen, you may feel as if you can’t quite get a full breath.

Benefits of good posture

Posture is about standing tall. But it’s also about how you hold your body throughout different types of movement. There are even names for these two types of posture.

  • Static posture is how you align your spine while standing or sitting still.
  • Dynamic posture describes how you hold your body while you’re in motion.

You need to find that proper spinal alignment both at rest and while moving. Doing so can lead to numerous benefits, including:

  • Better athletic performance
  • Fewer injuries
  • Healthier spine
  • Less muscle fatigue
  • Stronger core muscles

How to improve and maintain good posture

It’s no wonder that poor posture affects so many people of all ages. Modern, more sedentary lifestyles put us all at high risk of slouching. Sitting at a desk all day, spending hours gaming or watching TV or even just looking down at your phone a lot can all lead to slumped posture.

In order to maintain healthy body alignment throughout the day, good posture needs to become nearly automatic. But getting to that point can take some practice. The best place to start is by simply being mindful of your body positioning and noticing when you’re slumped, slouched or otherwise out of alignment.

To improve your posture, try these tips:

  • When standing, think of elongating your spine, keeping your shoulders back and your head level.
  • When sitting, keep your shoulders relaxed (not rounded), feet flat on the floor and your low back supported.
  • Work on strengthening your core muscles because they help support and protect the spine.
  • Move often. Standing or sitting for long periods can lead to slouching. Moving your body and focusing on your dynamic posture is good for you. Exercise types — such as yoga and tai chi — that emphasize posture and body awareness can also help.
  • You could try a posture corrector for a temporary posture boost. These braces, bras or shirts supposedly help train your muscles to improve your posture, but wearing them long term can potentially weaken muscles and lead to back or neck pain.

Heeding your parents’ long-ago advice is the first step toward better posture and a body that looks and feels better as well.

Take the Next Step

To learn more about posture, reach out to your primary care physician.

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