The Importance of Good Posture

Standing with good posture can make you look thinner as well as younger. Yep, just by standing with good alignment through your spine and your abdominal muscles lightly engaged you can take what will look like 5 pounds off of your midsection. Try it. Stand sideways to a mirror letting your abdominal muscles to be slack and allowing your belly to protrude. Then pull in your abs, lightly, and notice how you appear to have lost weight. Not only will focusing on lightly engaging your abdominal muscles while standing or walking help your appearance, it will also help prevent lower back pain. Just engaging those muscles is a form of core training which will strengthen the abdominals and take pressure off the back. Adopting this habit on a regular basis will serve to strengthen the abs, thus making the habit easier. Doing abdominal exercises such as low, high and side planks will further strengthen the abdominal area as well as the muscles of the back. Good posture will get easier. Your lower back will thank you.
When you see someone standing or walking with rounded shoulders you may perceive them to be older than they are. Someone who carries themselves with good posture can fool you into thinking they are younger than they are.  Some gradual changes to our posture will naturally occur as we age. We can expect to become stooped over the years, but there is plenty we can do to delay the hunched posture of an older person. Simply by being aware of engaging the muscles of the upper back slightly you can avoid a premature rounded posture look. Again, the more you practice this the more natural it will become. Your upper back will be stronger, your chest will be more open, your posture will be great, you will even breath more easily and you may even have people thinking you are much younger than your years.   Many activities, such as computer work, reading or even knitting, have us with our arms forward, for long periods of time, thus shortening the muscles in the front of  the shoulder and lengthening the muscles of the back of the shoulder. Over time, this posture will cause us to have rounded shoulders and a stooped posture will develop. Taking time often, throughout the day, to sit tall, stretch the arms out to the side at shoulder height and press them back will stretch the muscles of  the chest and front of the shoulder thus helping to prevent them from shortening which eventually will cause the upper back to become rounded. This, along with upper back strengthening exercises, will really help to prevent poor posture, which if allowed to progress can lead to neck and shoulder pain. A good balance between strong postural muscles of the upper back and flexibility of the chest and shoulder girdle muscles will promote good posture as well as prevent that upper body pain.
While practising good posture when sitting at a desk or standing in a line is beneficial, it is perhaps most important during activity. Weight lifting, running, cycling or even household chores, if done repeatedly with poor posture, will eventually lead to pain due to injury. Good posture keeps bones and joints in correct alignment so that muscles and ligaments are used correctly. This good alignment helps prevent wear and tear on joints which can lead to arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, nerve impingement or other problems. If you do a lot of golf, running, cycling or weight lifting, consider doing some yoga to balance out your activity. Yoga stretches are an excellent way to “lengthen” muscles that are most used or “shortened” during these activities. Muscle imbalance will create poor posture. Shortened hip flexors from running or cycling will cause back pain. Shortened chest or shoulder muscles due to golf will cause neck and shoulder pain. Add a stretching program to your routine to help prevent imbalances. Be sure to put a little more emphasis on training the back of the body when weight training. Because we typically use muscles of the front of the body more often, the muscles of the back of the body are often weak and over stretched. They can use a little more strengthening.
Head and neck alignment is important to good posture as well. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders. Your head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. The more you tilt it sideways or drop it forward the heavier it becomes and the more pressure you put on the muscles of the neck, back or shoulders. You can even cause nerve impingement from pressure on the spinal cord.  This presents itself as tingling or numbness. A forward poke of the head puts undue stress on the neck leading to neck pain, headaches or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain. Using a cell phone too often, a computer screen that is too low or doing anything for too long of a time that has you dropping your chin towards your chest will create this poor alignment over time. Be sure to have any workstations ergonomically correct.Take breaks throughout the day to perform a few neck stretches. Nip any neck, shoulder or back pain in the bud. If problems arise, take notice of your posture or get an assessment from a physiotherapist, osteopaths or chiropractor.  Always focus on good posture. You may look younger and slimmer but the best benefit is healthy joints that are free of pain. To help achieve an active, energetic, pain free life pay attention to good posture.