All day long we’re standing, sitting, and moving as we go about doing all the things our lives require of us. Then, at the end of the day, we flop down in our beds to get the rest our body needs in order to do it all again. Standing, sitting, and moving, day after day. But, dare I say, many of us don’t give much thought to how we’re doing it.
The thing is, the how is what defines our posture—literally. The American Chiropractic Association defines posture as “the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down.” So is it really a big deal to be aware of the position of your body as you do these things? I mean, either you’re standing up straight or you’re not. Right?
As we’ve discussed in lots of scenarios here at SRP, our bodies are freaking amazing. Every little (or big) thing that goes on within your body affects every other little (or big) thing—and that includes your posture. Which brings us to the big question for today: is your posture ruining your health?
What Is Good Posture?
Good posture is defined by a healthy or neutral spine, which has three natural curves: the two “c-shaped” curves of the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) are called lordosis. The “reverse c-shaped” curve of the chest (thoracic spine) is called kyphosis.
The carriage of the body as a whole, including the proper positioning of the limbs, is referred to as human posture. Posture is crucial in every aspect of your day—work, exercise, down time—because it determines not only how others see you but also impacts the inner workings of your body.
How Is Poor Posture Ruining Your Health?
If you never consider your posture and don’t make a point of correcting it to maintain those three natural curves in your spine, it’s just a matter of time before your health will be impacted. How exactly does posture affect your spinal health? The obvious answer, of course, is ubiquitous back pain. But that’s just scratching the surface. Let’s take a look at a few others:
- Cardiovascular health. Good cardiovascular health relies on unrestricted blood flow (among other things, of course). A spine that isn’t properly aligned can cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to a decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body—not to mention blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
- Nerve health. Poor posture also changes your skeletal system, which can lead to nerve pain. If you’ve ever experienced a pinched nerve in your neck or back, you know how it consumes your every thought throughout the day. Getting your spine into proper alignment and alleviating that nerve constriction can feel like magic, but it’s really just honoring how your body functions.
- Digestive health. If you compress the organs in your abdomen by slouching over all the time, your digestive health will eventually pay the price. It makes sense when you consider this area of your body is home to your digestive tract, right? Not giving these organs enough space to do their job is sure to cause problems over time. And when your body cannot efficiently process the food you eat, your metabolism takes a hit.
What Can You Do About It?
Poor posture isn’t just about how you sit at your desk. There’s more to think about than office ergonomics (though many people make this a big part of their working lives).
- When you walk: Stand tall with your shoulders back and your eyes up. Doing so not only makes you look more confident, but it also gives you a more powerful stride and greater range of motion, not to mention it allows you to breathe deeper. (Bonus: it makes you look slimmer even if you haven’t shed any of that extra weight you’ve been meaning to lose.)
- When you sleep: Lay on your side or back with a pillow to support your knees and another for your head and neck. In all honesty, I don’t always have the support at my knees, but when I was pregnant I used a body pillow for this purpose and it felt wonderful. Definitely something to revisit as it keeps your spine in the appropriate position throughout the night.
- When you exercise: Use good form for the activity that you’re engaged in. Doing so encourages good overall body posture, and it makes your workout more effective, more quickly.
The Posture of a Winner
Poising yourself as a confident, energetic, and alert human being goes a long way. Yes, others will think better of you—but you’ll also feel better about yourself. An excellent reason to do yourself a favor and look more deeply into how you can develop the posture of a winner. (And maybe try a simple device like Upright Go2 as a good way to get started.)