How often do you think about your posture? If you’re like most people, you stand like you always stand, very rarely giving any thought to your posture at all. That may change if you injure your back or are trying to impress a date – you may stand up straighter due to pain or social pressure but for the most part, your postural muscles run on auto-pilot.
That’s not such a bad thing if you have good posture all of the time but as I people watch during my workday, I find most of us could use a little reminder about what good posture is and why it’s important for us take time to actively work on it.
According to Clara John, at BrianMac Sports Coach, good posture is defined by these attributes:
- Upright head positioned to keep the ears over the shoulders
- Shoulders should be rolled back at the joints
- Upper back should not be arched or humped — stay tall
- An arc in lower back is also vital by keeping the belly button in and hips neutral
- Knees should be relaxed and slightly bent
This standing posture is an energy saver and will allow gravity to work for you. Much like a tall stack of blocks, when your joints are stacked on top of one another, gravity’s pull reduced the amount of work it takes to stay upright. The smaller stabilizing muscles will make small adjustments to keep you balanced but there isn’t a great deal of strain put on these muscles when the spine is in proper alignment.
When part of the body is hanging off this tall stack (for example, if your upper body is slumping over in a relaxed, slouchy posture) gravity is now working against you. When your muscles relax and your posture collapses, gravity pulls unevenly on your spine. Your giant, heavy head hangs off your skinny and, comparatively weak, neck, leaving your ligaments and tendons straining to hold your joints together.
All of this effectively creates the need for the body to fight against gravity. This constant fight between the slouching body and gravity results in noticeable fatigue pretty quickly. Ligaments and tendons were not created to operate in this fashion. The resulting strain to these tissues wear then down over time and the slouchers among us start to feel pain in our necks, upper and lower backs from our bad habit.
AND since the muscles are not actively engaged, they weaken. This increases the instability of the back both during rest and at play. Obviously, weak muscles increase the risk for musculoskeletal injuries and can result in an injury from something as simple as bending over to pick up a pencil or small laundry basket. Not a very pretty picture, huh?
Here’s where the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes in. Stand up straight — every minute your posture is in correct alignment, you are increasing the endurance power of those muscles at the same time you are decreasing your risk of injury to ligament, tendon, bones and muscle.
Plus, you’ll seem taller, thinner, more confident and all around more attractive….if you care about that sort of thing.