The importance of posture
Our posture and overall body health are one of the things we often neglect or forget as we become too consumed in work and our daily lives everyday. (Us included! That’s why we decided to create Posture Werks). As our bodies become exhausted, stress accumulates in our body and also causes muscles and bones to become strained, stiff, or in pain. This likely can result in bad posture, which can create long-term health problems such as severe pain, injuries, bone deformity and other health problems.
What is posture?
Posture is more than how you stand or sit. Posture is also about how you hold or position your body from head to toe. There are 2 types of posture – dynamic posture and static posture. Here’s a quick explanation on what they mean!
Dynamic posture is how our body carries itself when we are in a state of movement, such as walking, bending over or exercising.
Static posture, on the other hand, deals with how our body positions itself when we are not moving, such as sleeping, sitting or standing.
To have a healthy body, we need to develop a consistent and good dynamic and static posture.
8 benefits of having a good posture
Let’s first quickly understand why having a natural posture is important and beneficial to our well-being.
1. Better inner body function – With an improving body positional alignment, your internal organs and bodily functions a better condition to work properly. For example, your digestion may most likely improve with a better body posture.
2. Reduces body ache and pain – A body with excellent posture uses its bones and spine to balance and support the overall body weight. On the other hand, poor posture requires muscles, ligaments and tendons to help hold up the body’s improper position. This causes stress and leads to pain in areas like the back, neck and knees. Thus, positive posture relieves the otherwise unnecessary stress on the ligament and allows muscles to function more efficiently, using less energy as a result.
3. Your breathing will improve – if you are slouching, your lungs may not have enough room to expand to its fullest, as your rib cage collapses. This means less oxygen can enter your lungs. With an upright posture, your lungs will be able to expand to its optimal size, which means your breathing efficiency will improve.
4. Better breathing leads to better memory and learning capability – Studies have indicated that a better posture can lead to improved memory retention because of more efficient oxygen intake (see item 3 above). More oxygen intake helps in making your cognition better.
5. Improves your concentration levels – Besides memory improvement, research has also found that a person can concentrate better and have a more alert state of mind if they maintain a proper posture as compared to those who slouch.
6. Uplifts your mood – Beyond physical and cognitive benefits, there are also emotional ones too! One particular psychophysiology study found that posture also indirectly influences a person’s overall mood and feelings.
7. Makes you look confident – This may sound like a vanity benefit, but it is naturally and widely perceived by people that those who stand and sit in an upright, proper position are looked upon as more trustworthy, confident and more attractive. It also makes you taller too. On the flip side, a hunchbacked person appears shorter and may not exude the same level of confidence as compared to a good-postured individual.
8. Also makes you feel confident too – When you maintain a good posture, testosterone actually increases and cortisol decreases in your body. This can help you feel less anxious and more comfortable and assertive. (Note: Testosterone is a hormone that boosts confidence and motivation levels and cortisol a hormone that causes stress.)
As you can see from these 8 benefits, having a good healthy posture can boost our well-being not just physically, but also our inner bodily functions, mental health and emotional well-being too. 😊
We often neglect or forget about our posture
One of the most common challenges we face when dealing with our own bodies is that we often overlook it (unfortunately!) all too easily. We may be too busy at work or play, or too engrossed in the task at hand. By the time we are done, tiredness strike us and only then we feel the neck pain and/or muscle tension that engulf us (which is caused by our improper posture). We will suggest a few useful tips to help you tackle and stay mindful of your body while working towards an ideal posture in a separate article next time. 😉
So what exactly is a good posture?
In order to achieve proper posture, we need to get our spine position in an ideal position. This means we need to get the 3 natural curves in our body correct:
1. The curve at our neck – To achieve this, your head needs to be vertically above your shoulders. This should result in an inward or forward curve (cervical curve).
2. The curve at our mid/upper back body – your shoulders will need to be vertically over your hips. This will create an outward or backward curve (thoracic spine curve).
3. The curve at our lower back – your lower back spine should have an inward curve (lumbar curve).
Having a proper posture does not mean you have to maintain your neck, upper back and lower back body at the ideal positions at all times (it is not possible at all, as we may have to accommodate ourselves to a certain position sometimes). However, you should feel at ease and naturally return to a default body position that has the above 3 spinal curves. If you feel the pain or feel tired while holding up the above 3 cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves, it means you are probably not used to an ideal posture and may have been adopting bad posture for too long.
How to achieve a properly aligned postural position?
Firstly, you need to be aware of your body and start to be mindful of your posture during your major daily activities. Try to achieve and then maintain the 3 spinal curves which we highlighted above while carrying out your everyday work. A good starting point will be to focus on sitting, standing and walking. This should cover the bulk of your day. 😊
Focus on the 3 key activities that you do everyday
1. Sitting – Following these tips over a sustained period of time will help you attain a good sitting posture:
– Your head should not be leaning forward. Keep your head straight and ideally vertically above your shoulder while working or studying.
– Relax your shoulders. While slouching or keeping rounded shoulders is not good, you should not deliberately pull your shoulders backwards too.
– Use an ergonomic high back chair. Having a good chair will provide the support your body requires. Alternatively, you can use a good quality backrest to improvise your chair.
– Don’t cross your legs while sitting. There should be a small space between the back of your knees and the front edge of your chair.
– Ensure your feet is touching the floor. If your feet can’t reach the floor or is too long, you can use a footrest or try adjusting your chair’s height.
– Try to keep your elbows at a 90 degrees position.
– Make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor.
– Make sure your table is of an appropriate height relative to your sitting position. This will help you adopt a proper sitting posture when typing, writing or reading at the table.
– Stretch your neck, shoulder muscle and hips area frequently. Avoid sitting for long periods of time because this is bad for your health, as it can cause pressure to the veins and affect your back and hips.
2. Standing – You should keep these pointers in mind while standing, as they will help benefit your posture:
– Keep your shoulders back and not slump forwards. Without being mindful about your own shoulder, it is easy to get used to slouching and be ‘comfortable’ with rounded shoulders, before aching starts to kick in.
– Maintain your head in line with your body and above your shoulders. There will be times where you may need to lean your head forward, but you should try to return your head position back in level with your body.
– Don’t lock your knees when standing. You are locking your knees when your butt cheeks are clenched or when your quad muscles are contracted. When you lock your knees, there is compression at your knee joint which reduces blood flow and causes stress to your limbs.
– Maintain your feet at shoulder-width apart. This helps to balance your weight and distribute your body weight more evenly.
– Balance your weight across your feet. It is ideal to let each foot take on 50% of your weight and your weight should be evenly distributed across your feet, with your heel, toes and the balls of your feet sharing the weight load equally. Making sure your feet receives your weight equally is also an indication of your body in proper alignment.
– Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body. This allows your weight to be evenly distributed across your body without letting your hands interfere with the weight distribution in your standing posture.
3. Walking – You can follow the below tips and improve your body alignment even when on the move:
– Use your core muscles while you walk. Try to tighten your core and pull in your belly towards your spine. No need to deliberately ‘push in’ your stomach, just take slower, deeper breaths and you are already on your way to engaging your stomach muscles!
– Swing your arms properly. You should swing your arms from your shoulders, not from your elbows. Try not to swing too high up (you’re not marching!) and not too fast. Keep it natural.
– Feet should land from heel to toe. Your feet should touch the ground with your heel first, then your balls of feet and finally toes. When your feet is leaving the ground, use your balls of feet to push out of your step. Try to avoid touching or leaving the ground with your feet in its entirety (flat footed steps) or using your toes to come into contact with the ground first.
– Keep your head up. While walking, you should focus on maintaining your chin at a position that is parallel to the ground and your ears aligned above your shoulders. No need to hold up your head until you can see the ceiling, though (that’ll be too much! 😅). Keep your head at a position such that you can see ahead of you of around 10-15 metres while you walk.
– Straighten and elongate your spine. Avoid slouching, hunching or bring yourself forward too much while walking, as this can create unnecessary stress on your back muscles.
– Relax and hold back your shoulders. Avoid rounded shoulders and loosen up your shoulder muscles. Having tense shoulders can create muscle strain which will affect your walking posture. Try shrugging your shoulders once in a while to relieve any tension or tight muscles. This will enable your arms to move more freely.
Tips to help address your bad posture
If you already know you have a poor posture and are suffering from muscle fatigue, here are a few easy-to-do exercises to help you correct your postural position and increase your muscle strength!
1. Posture check
Stand against a smooth and straight wall to discover how your posture is. Make sure your back of head, shoulders, upper back and butt are in contact with the wall. Your heels should be around 5-6 inches away from the wall. Remember this position and try to maintain it throughout the way as you stand, walk or run. 😊 You can always check again your posture against any wall near you regularly during the day!
2. The wall exercise
While you are standing against the wall, you can actually do an exercise too! Raise both your hands slowly until they meet above your head while keeping contact with the wall throughout and maintain the position of your head, shoulders, back and butt. Lower your hands down to their natural down position and raise back up again. You can repeat this for 8-10 times.
3. Child’s pose
Start with a position with your hands and knees on the floor. Your knees should be as wide as your shoulders and your left and right big toes touching each other. Extend your hands and arms straight out, and drop your hips back such that they are resting on the back of your heels. Rest your forehead on the floor, and maintain this position for 5-10 deep breaths before repeat.
4. Chest stretch
Stand with a proper posture (with proper alignment of your head, shoulders and back). Move your arms behind you and let your fingers interlace each other below your lower back. Maintain your head at a neutral position and look in front of you. Take a deep breath and lift your chest up. Maintain your chest and arms behind position for 5 breaths and repeat. 😗
You need cues and reminders
Simply knowing that you have poor posture and doing exercises are not enough. In order to really improve your body posture, you need to consciously remind yourself and maintain consistency. According to Dr Austin Davis from Life Chiropractic SF from the United States, being aware is the most crucial element if you want to improve your body alignment and postural muscles. Here’s a few simple cues that you can adopt for a start:
1. Have frequent short breaks and develop a habit of standing up and walk around.
2. Get into the habit of standing with soft knees, not locking them.
3. Take deeper breaths and puff your chest. Make sure the oxygen enters deep into your lungs so that your chest inflates.
4. Pull your shoulders back (but not too far back). Making sure your shoulders are not forward helps your lumbar spine stay in their natural curves.
5. Point your feet just slightly outward. They should not be pointing directly straight forward or inward. This will help to work your hip flexor region and muscles around your hips.
Patience and consistency are required
As more people starts to become more conscious about their diet and also physical health, posture becomes a health issue that becomes more important. If you have been paying little attention to your body positions, be it standing, sitting or walking and has been feeling the aches, it is good to start to take some action to address your spinal curves and muscle imbalances. However, correcting a posture takes some time and requires regular effort. Therefore you need to have the patience and willingness to follow through the process of getting used to a corrected body ‘form’. Once it becomes habitual, it will become natural and much easier for you, without worrying about reverting to a poor posture.