Your posture is the most important thing you wear
Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies when we are standing, sitting, and moving. Good posture is the optimal or best alignment of your body, with a balance between the strength and tension of the muscles that control your posture. A balance between muscle strength and flexibility is a critical component for maintaining good upright posture. Good strong core stability is an essential part of this abdominal, pelvic floor, back and buttock (gluteal) and hamstring strength.
We are usually not aware of having to maintain our posture as the postural muscles act to hold us in certain positions and assist in maintaining our balance during movement. When we have good posture our muscles and ligaments maintain us in optimal positions with little stress on the joints, muscles and soft tissues. Good posture can also make us look taller and often help us feel more confident and can impact the way that others perceive us.
Good postural alignment helps reduce the uneven forces and stress on our joints, reducing the chance of abnormal wearing of the joints that can lead to arthritis and joint pain. It also reduces the stress on ligaments which can lead to injuries, and allows our muscles to work more efficiently, preventing muscle fatigue. Poor posture can lead to muscle pain and fatigue, and stress on your ligaments and joints.
There are several things that contribute to poor posture including muscle weakness, tight muscles, stress, obesity, and spending prolonged periods of time in one position. This includes sitting for long periods at a computer or bending forward. Poor work environments, wearing high – heels and poor sitting habits contribute to this.
Strength is a critical component of maintaining proper, upright postural alignment. Good posture is reinforced by strong core stability. The muscle groups that contribute to a strong core and are key to good posture include abdominal, pelvic floor, upper and lower back and buttock (gluteal) muscles.
Stretching is also an important practice that supports posture. Tight and overused muscles alter the pull and alignment of joints which, over time, can lead to arthritis as joint surfaces become worn in an uneven way. Stretching tight muscles allow muscles to function at their ideal length. In combination with strong muscles, you can achieve natural alignment of the body and an ideal posture.
There are several common postures that cause pain and lead to loss of function and ability to move efficiently. These postures increase fatigue, place strain on the ligaments (particularly those of the spine) and add to wear and tear of the joint surfaces which can lead to the onset of arthritis.
These adverse postures include:
Forward head (neck) posture – poked neck
Excessive lordosis of the lumbar spine – sway back
Loss of lordosis of the lumbar spine – flattened back
Kyphosis of the thoracic spine – hunched and stiff upper back
How can you improve your own posture?
- Strengthen your back, buttocks and abdomen with a few daily strengthening exercises targeting those areas specifically.
- Start a stretching program that targets the muscles of the hips and back. Including the back, buttocks, hamstrings, hip flexors and hips abductors and hip adductors.
- Help your forward head posture, by performing the chin tuck. Look straight ahead, place two fingers on your chin, slightly tuck your chin and move your head back. Hold for three to five seconds and then release
- Move often and avoid being in just one position for hours at a time. Staying in one position (such as sitting watching the TV or at the computer) for several hours will contribute to poor posture.
What is an ideal standing posture?
- Weight should be evenly distributed through both feet
- Stand up tall and lift your sternum or the front of your chest – keep your shoulders relaxed. If you think of having a light shine from your chest, this light should be shining forward and into the ground in front of you.
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
- Tuck your stomach in.
- Keep your head level with your ears in line with your shoulders. Pretend you have a string at the base of your skull lifting and lengthening the back of your neck.
What is an ideal sitting posture?
- Push your hips as far back as they can to the back of the chair
- Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.
- Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips. If able, adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips.
- There should be a small gap of approx. 2-3 finger width between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
- Don’t cross your legs.
- If able, adjust the armrests (if fitted) so that your shoulders are relaxed
- Do not slouch, keep your back upright with a small pillow or support in the lower back to help maintain the natural inward curve of the lower back.
- Importantly, avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
Improve your walking posture:
- Pretend you are walking like a model — upright and relaxed – keep your head high and shoulders relaxed as you walk well and smoothly down the catwalk!
- Pretend you have a wire threaded through your spine, and you are lifting it lengthwise up through the top of your head. Keep your shoulders relaxed and breath well.
Being in any one posture for prolonged periods of time can lead to muscle fatigue and pain. Standing or sitting for too long will lead to problems of tight and weak muscles.
When trying to improve your posture keep in mind the following: