"Sit up at the dinner table. Stand up straight. Shoulders back. No slouchers in my house!"
I imagine many of you recall Mom or Dad encouraging good posture. And once again, our parents were right.
And because we are becoming a society of sitters, slouchers and loungers, it's time to restress that timeless wisdom for good posture.
According to The Cleveland Clinic, posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.
Reasons for poor posture
- Inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion (how far a joint can move in any direction). For example, overly tight, shortened hip muscles tug your upper body forward and disrupt your posture. Overly tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward.
- Muscle strength affects balance in a number of ways. The "core muscles" of the back, side, pelvis and buttocks form a sturdy central link between your upper and lower body. Weak core muscles encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance. Strong lower leg muscles also help keep you steady when standing.
- Screen time with tablets and smartphones exerts significant stress on the neck and spine. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a spine surgeon from New York, calculated that the the head of an adult human exerts 60 pounds of pressure when looking down at a cell phone. Imagine having an 9-year-old riding on your neck while reading a text. Physical therapists call it 'Text Neck."
- Habits are changing. We live in a more casual society. We sling our weighty backpacks over one shoulder. We sit or lounge in awkward positions for hours while gaming or watching videos. Studies say that sitting is the "smoking" of our lifetime.
What can good posture do for you?
- You look better. Studies show that good posture make you look taller, more confident, smarter and more attractive.
- You feel better about yourself. Good posture improves self-confidence and mood. (Read more about Dr. Ann Cuddy's Power Poses.)
- You breathe better. Good posture improves your lung capacity by 30 percent.
- You think and concentrate better. The brain uses at least 25 percent of our available oxygen delivered, so improved breathing can improve cognitive function, balance and overall health.
- You feel less fatigued because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
- You can minimize risk of balance issues, back and neck problems, scoliosis, pulmonary and coronary disease, digestive issues, migraines and tension headaches and poor circulation. It keeps your bones and joints in proper alignment so you use your muscles more efficiently, preventing strain and overuse. And it minimizes compression of internal organs and blood vessels.
Ideas for improving posture
- Be aware. Do quick mirror checks to assess your posture. Make sure your weight is centered over your feet.
- Stand against the wall with your head, shoulders and butt touching it. Adjust your posture to minimize swayback. Chest out.
- Yoga and pilates are great for strengthening your core and improving balance.
- Do shoulder blade squeezes several times a day, hold for 5 seconds each time.
- Make sure your work space is optimized for good posture positioning.
- Get up from your desk at least once per hour and do some stretches while you're up.
- Avoid stomach sleeping.
- Lift babies, groceries and books the right way. Bend your knees and bring things close to you for more support.
Turn on that internal voice and let your parent's voice remind you about good posture. Stand tall, sit up and feel better.
If you're having trouble doing it on your own, check with your doctor about seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor.
Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at email@example.com.