What is good posture?
Good posture is when your skeleton, joints and muscles are in balance. The body weight should be distributed equally so that no part is exposed to extra stress, just like a well-constructed building. And just like an insufficient building, a body with bad posture will be less resistant to the stress we are facing every day, month and year throughout our lives.
Several factors affect our posture, for example flexibility, size and form of skeleton and muscles, lifestyle habits, mental condition etc. and it varies from person to person. Each individual’s posture is unique and we are born with anatomical differences which means part of our posture is inherited. However, there are a great number of external factors affecting how we hold up our bodies as well and these we can work with to improve our posture.
What are the benefits of good posture?
Reduced pain and tension in your back, shoulders and neck
Sitting or standing in a slouched position for prolonged periods of time stresses your lower back. More specifically, it puts pressure on the posterior structures of the spine, including the intervertebral discs, ligaments, and muscles. In similar, a forward head posture puts strain on the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas. With proper alignment, the joints and ligaments are less stressed and less subject to chronic overuse.
Increased energy levels
When your bones and joints are in correct alignment, it allows the muscles to be used as they are intended, so you will have less fatigue and more energy. In other words, the muscles do not have to work so hard to do what they are supposed to do. So straighten up and get the energy you deserve!
Not only can good posture boost your energy levels and reduce your pain, it can also increase your self-esteem. Just like social psychologist Amy Cuddy describes in her popular TED talk, different gestures and body positions have an impact on how we feel. Standing in an upright position with good posture can boost feelings of confidence, as well as adding height and authority to your figure. In contrast, a slouched, slumped posture tends to be associated with people who are unhappy or introverted. Thus, our posture matters when it comes to how we feel and how other see us.
Reduced stress level
A slouching posture sends signals to the brain to release cortisol, a hormone strongly linked to anxiety and stress. During the Stone age, this stress was useful as we crouched as a way to hide from dangerous animals and other threats, but a lot have changed in the way we live our lives. The problem is that our brains still act the same as they did during the Stone age, and when we lean forward over smartphones or computer screens today the cortisol is released and increase the level of stress. Hence, by straighten up, we can reduce the level of stress and anxiety in our bodies.
Increased lung capacity
A good posture gives your lungs more space to expand and more oxygen can be transported through your body of each breath. If you instead are slouching, you are compressing your lungs. In other words, good posture improves your breathing and this is for example why yoga, pilates and meditation exercises pay so much attention on getting your posture and sitting positions right.
Poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, due to increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. Often if we correct our posture, we can reduce muscle tension and in turn reduce the headache.
Improved circulation and digestion
Your posture determines how easily blood can flow around your body, and digestion requires a lot of blood flowing to your system. If you are compressing vital organs your circulation is poor and those organs are not going to work as well. Healthy blood flow requires proper alignment and a good posture avoiding positions which cramp circulation, like slouching or crossing your legs.
The importance of good posture for kids
There are several systems responsible for providing our postural control; visual, sensory, nervous and muscular systems all work together. In their first four years children are growing rapidly and their postural systems are continually developing and adapting. Once children reach the age of between 7-10 years, most of these systems have already matured. Being able to lay down good movement patterns from very early is paramount in preventing posture related aches and pains.
Just like for adults, when children have unstable posture they end up using excess energy to maintain their stability and balance. This can affect how they function and decrease their ability to complete fine motor tasks, school work and even to listen. Hence, good posture should be in focus already from when the kids are young.
“It is easier to maintain good postural habits in children than it is to fix the problems they cause in adulthood.”