Has anyone ever mentioned to you or scolded you for slouching at a family dinner? Comments like that might be annoying but they're not wrong. Your posture is the way you hold your body when you're sitting or standing and is the foundation for every movement your body makes and can determine how well your body adapts to the stresses of everyday life. These stresses can be things like carrying weight or sitting in an awkward position. Your muscles have to work harder to keep you upright and while some muscles will become tight and inflexible others will be inhibited over time. These dysfunctional adaptations impact on your body's ability to deal with the forces you experience every day. Poor posture inflicts extra wear and tear on your joints and ligaments and increases the likelihood of accidents and can also make some organs like your lungs less efficient.
Researchers have linked poor posture to scoliosis, tension headaches, and back pain, so it isn't the exclusive cause of any of them. Posture can even influence your emotional state and your sensitivity so there are a lot of reasons to aim for good posture. It's getting harder these days as we spend longer sitting and, worse still, in an awkward position for a long time can promote poor posture and so can using computers or mobile devices which encourage you to look downwards. Many studies suggest that on average posture is getting worse so what does good posture look like?
When you look at the spine from the front or the back all 33 vertebrae should appear stacked in a straight line from the side the spine should have three gentle curves. One at your neck one of your shoulders and one at the small of your back. You aren't born with this as babies fine have just one curve, with the others usually developing by 12 to 18 months. As the muscles strengthened these curves help us stay upright and absorb some of the stress from activities like walking and jumping. If they are aligned properly when you're standing up, you should be able to draw a straight line from a point just in front of your shoulders to behind your hip to the front of your knee to a few inches in front of your ankle. This keeps your center of gravity directly over your base of support which allows you to move efficiently with the least amount of fatigue and muscle strain. If you're sitting, your neck should be vertical not tilted forward your shoulders should be relaxed with your arms close to your truck your knees should be at a right angle with your feet flat on the floor. But what if your posture isn't that great? Try redesigning your environment. Adjust your screen so it's slightly below eye level and make sure all parts of your body like your elbows and wrists are supported using ergonomic aids. If you sleep on your side try placing a pillow between your legs. Wear shoes with low heels and good arch support and use a headset for phone calls.
It's also not enough to just have good posture. Keeping your muscles and joints moving is extremely important in fact being stationary for long periods with good posture can be worse than regular movement with bad posture. When you do move, move smartly keep anything you're carrying close to your body. Backpacks should be in contact with your back and carried symmetrically. If you sit a lot get up and move around on occasion and be sure to exercise using your muscles will keep them strong enough to support you effectively. Small adjustments can really help improve your posture over time!