Do you what to look five pounds lighter and a few years younger with little to no effort? Of course you do. Do you think it sounds too good to be true? Well it’s not. Do you want to know what miracle achieves this? It’s good posture. Yep, simply standing with good alignment through the spine can make you appear slightly thinner and have people guessing your age. Think “little old person”. What do you visualize? Probably someone slumped forward with a rounded back and forward shoulders comes to mind. Avoiding that look by practising good posture helps you appear younger and slimmer as well as helping to prevent back, shoulder and neck pain. When the spine is not in proper alignment the back muscles, ligaments, discs and spinal joints are all under increased and uneven stress. Muscle strain is a common result. Since the low back supports most of the weight of the body it is particularly vulnerable to pain due to poor posture. Neck pain is also common due to bad posture habits such as slouching or holding the head too far forward.
Now stand sideways in the mirror allowing the ab muscles to relax. Notice the abdomen. Notice your spinal alignment. Chances are your belly is protruding, your low back is in an excessive arch and your shoulders are slumping forward somewhat. Now engage the abdominals. Pull them in slightly, as though you were getting ready to accept a light punch. Check your refection once again. Looks like you just lost five pounds, yes? Your shoulders probably pulled back slightly as well. Simply engaging the abs in this manner as often a possible throughout your day, especially when standing will do much to improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles and protect your low back from discomfort. Using this simple technique will benefit you much more than any amount of ab crunches which promote excessive forward flexion and a rounded back.
Engaging the abs while standing trains the transvers abs which when strong, do the most to protect the low back. No need to suffer through 100’s of ab crunches to improve core strength, simply practice pulling in those abs as often as possible, whether you are seated or standing. Exercises such as variations of a plank, when done correctly will strengthen the core and promote better posture as well. Preventing muscle imbalances will also benefit posture. If your job requires you to sit for several hours each day, you may be shortening your hip flexor, hamstring and chest muscle groups while lengthening and weakening your upper back muscles. Get up from the desk every so often to move around and do your best to become aware of your posture. Is your head centered over your torso? Is your chest slightly elevated? Are your shoulders down and relaxed? Are your abs lightly engaged? Poor posture habits can become good posture habits simply by becoming more aware.
If you are experiencing back, shoulder or neck pain you may need someone else to help assess your posture. Chiropractors and physiotherapists are great at this. They will be looking to see that
your ear, shoulder, hip, knees and ankles are all in alignment. They will also assess any muscle imbalances and be able to help you make changes that will benefit your posture and therefore your back, shoulder and neck health. Better posture really can help you look and feel younger!