The Power of Posture

Could tweaking your posture be the key to a healthier, more successful life?

by Laura Chapman, February 2020

Good posture. We all know it when we see it, sit up straighter for a second, and then forget about it until we next have a meeting with Sally from accounts (how does she always have such good posture?).

Subconsciously, you know that good posture is the goal. That’s why, when you remember it, you straighten up and try it out for a while. The trick is to make it the norm, not the exception… and once you do, it will be with you for life.

We go through some of the benefits of good posture below, and then some tips on how to achieve it.

Benefits of good posture:

1. Remove stress from your muscles, joints and ligaments

Bad posture puts stress on your spine, and in turn on your muscles, joints and ligaments which results in aches and pains. Do you get back, neck or shoulder pain? Good chance that poor posture is a contributor, exacerbator, or even the sole cause of this pain. And the longer you maintain the poor posture, the worse it gets. Improving your posture can better align your body, taking stress off your spine, muscles, joints and ligaments and in turn take away the pain that came with it.

2. Use less energy – leaving you more energy for everything else

The counterbalancing and adjustment your body has to do to allow for your bad posture is not only possibly causing you pain, but actually it requires a lot of your body’s energy too. The body was not meant to operate this way, and the compensation comes at a cost of your body’s vital energy stores (no, do not read this as slouching is a fat-burning exercise) which could be better utilised elsewhere in your body, including in your brain.

3. Allow your organs to run at their full potential

Similarly, poor posture can decrease the space for your lungs, and thereby decreasing the amount of oxygen that your body is able to receive (by up to 30% according to some studies). Good posture can help you take more oxygen into your lungs, which ultimately means more oxygen for your body and its organs (who also could be suffering from the poor posture). Often where people notice it most is in the positive effects that can be seen on breathing and digestion by improving posture.

4. Reduce tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most widespread type of headache (to learn more click here). While not the sole cause, poor posture can build up the stress on your spine, neck and head, leading to avoidable headaches.

5. Believe in yourself

Research now shows that not only is good posture crucial to portray confidence to others, it is actually the case that good posture will make you feel more confident in yourself. Studies have shown that people who sit up straight are more likely to feel confident about a task they have done and to believe they are the right applicant for a job. So before that next interview, stand tall, look confident, be confident (cue Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power poses that you need to see!).

Tips for achieving that perfect posture.

1. Stop slouching

Lift your chest and place your feet flat on the floor. Have your computer, phone, TV or book (or whatever it is you look at most) right in front of you at eye level. Put things on books, boxes, etc to make this happen.

2. Stand up

If you haven’t heard, sitting is the new smoking. Or at least change your position every 20-30 minutes.

3. Put the phone down

Sir, I am going to have to ask you to put the phone down. Welcome to the generation of the tech neck – pain in your neck and shoulders caused by the constant use of electronic devices. With people routinely spending 3 to 4 hours per day on their phones (you are reading this on your phone aren’t you) this bad posture (head forward, shoulders rounded) can cause a repetitive strain on your neck and shoulders. It’s time to put the phone down… or at least to use it in a way where it is at a natural position that does not cause strain on your body.

4. Get a Posture Pal

Humans are creatures of habit and sometimes you need help to break the habit. Whether its slipping down your seat until you are near-horizontal, a propensity to fold one leg under you when you sit down, or simply constantly walking with your chin almost on your chest, sometimes all you need is a simple reminder to break the habit. This is where a Posture Pal comes in. It could be your office-buddy, life-partner, or your best-friend. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you pick your human Nicorette patch wisely – someone not afraid to nag you out of your bad habits.

5. Stretch and exercise

Posture is not static. It’s not simply the way you sit or stand – it moves with you. Regular stretching and exercise can help to strengthen your positive posture, making it easier as time goes on.

6. Set up your office ergonomically

While it is important to minimise the time spent in a sustained position, there are lots of small tweaks we can make to our workplace set up to reduce unnecessary strain. These tweaks include using a headset rather than the phone, keeping your screen at eye level, and maintaining right angles at your elbows, hips and knees when seated. Your osteopath can discuss these alterations with you and many workplaces carry out regular ergonomic assessments.

7. Sleep right

You spend (theoretically) one third of your life asleep so make sure you are doing it right. Keeping your spine in a neutral position (ie your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine) is . You can find pointers on how to find the right pillow for you at our previous pillow talk article.

8. Work out the right way

OK big boy, it might be time to reduce the weight a little and work on your form. Our resident exercise scientist will be the first to tell you that maintaining the correct form when exercising is of paramount importance, and definitely more beneficial than throwing your technique out of the window just so you can achieve a personal best. Proper form, focusing on keeping your spine neutral, your body weight appropriately distributed and ensuring the proper position of your feet, knees, hips and shoulders, will not only help your posture, it will also keep you injury free.

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