When your mother or your teachers at school told you to straighten up, they were actually giving you very good advice. Holding yourself with good posture doesn’t just look nice; it can benefit your health in many ways.
The recent rise in technology has brought posture back into the spotlight. Millions of people spend their day hunching over to look at a phone or computer, which takes a major toll on our posture, pain, and our lives.
Why does good posture matter, and what gym exercises (and daily ones, too) can you practice to ward off the negative effects of that constant hunch? Read on for more on the power of good posture.
The negative effects of poor posture
The effects of bad posture are most obvious in back pain and spinal alignment. Back pain affects half of all working Americans in any given year, and is the number one cause for missing work. Back pain is caused by poor spinal alignment, injuries to the back, and poor posture. Experts estimate that 90% of Americans jut their necks forward, misaligning the entire spine and causing back pain.
Poor posture puts stress on the spine that leads to misalignment and muscle atrophy over time. Unless someone is exercising to promote good posture or build strength in the core and back muscles, their muscles will lose strength and their range of motion will decrease. Sitting up straight, walking with good balance and working out will all become more difficult.
The bottom line: posture affects every area of our lives, even if we don’t notice it until it’s too late.
Benefits of good posture
The benefits of good posture extend beyond preventing the negative effects we just outlined. Remember the following benefits the next time you start to slouch.
- Strong core: Don’t be surprised if you feel tired after sitting for a few minutes with good posture. When we sit with good posture, we give more work to the core muscles. The more often we sit with good posture, the more comfortable this position becomes when we sit at a desk or in the car. Sitting and moving with good posture can help you build abdominal strength and promote balance.
- Maximized workouts: You’ve likely heard trainers and other fitness professionals singing the praises of proper form. If you haven’t already, it’s time to listen to that sage advice, because proper posture during exercises like squats and weight lifting can minimize injury and engage the right muscles at the right time.
- Deeper breathing: Hunching over our phone or desk squeezes and eventually tightens our chest muscles. Opening the chest with good posture keeps the chest muscles flexible and gives the respiratory system more room to function. You can breathe deeper and fuller with good posture.
- More productive workday: Posture can have a positive effect on our lives in the workplace and the boardroom. Above, you read that back pain is the top reason for calling out of work. A healthy back keeps us pain-free and productive at work. You can reduce the amount of painkillers and doctor’s visits for pain and focus more on the work at hand.
- Dominant body language: When we sit with good posture, we appear larger and more confident. If we enter a room with proud posture, we give off the impression that we are a leader. Good posture can make you look like a dominant and trusted authority.
Posture is more important than people think. Sitting up straight while you read this blog post, eat dinner tonight or hit the gym can put you on a path to better health overall.
How to improve your posture
The best way to improve your posture is to, well, practice good posture. Since most of us spend countless hours sitting every day, your posture while sitting down is a good place to start.
How do you know you’re sitting with good posture? Be conscious of the way your entire body is positioned in your chair. Good posture looks like this:
- Chin parallel to the floor and gaze is forward
- Shoulders rolled down the back
- Chest open and proud
- Spine straight, from the tailbone to the neck
- Hips and shoulders even
- Knees pointing forward
- Feet planted evenly with even weight distribution
Remind yourself to sit in good posture with sticky notes or phone alarms. Most chairs have a back where we can comfortably slouch. Sitting on an exercise ball or a stool can also encourage good posture.
If you want to improve your posture in the gym, focus on exercises that expand the chest and strengthen the core muscles. When you develop a strong core, sitting with good posture will no longer feel as uncomfortable. Men’s Health recommends these exercises, which are designed to improve your posture overall.
Sitting with good posture for even an hour a day can be hard at first, but with patience and the right exercises, you can learn to sit up straight for longer periods of time. Living with good posture will help alleviate back pain, build muscle and make you look more confident at work and at the gym. Working on your posture today will ensure you feel the benefits tomorrow.