Taking Care of Your Posture
What is posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie so as to place the least strain on muscles and ligaments while you are moving or performing weight-bearing activities.
Good posture helps you in the following ways:
Keeps bones and joints in the correct position (alignment) so that muscles are being used properly.
Helps cut down on the wear and tear of joint surfaces (such as the knee) to help prevent the onset of arthritis.
Decreases the strain on the ligaments in the spine.
Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, which allows the body to use less energy.
Prevents backache and muscular pain.
Improving your posture at home
Like everything, good posture starts at home. Before you leave the house, make the effort to check your posture and correct it for the day ahead. An easy way to do this is to straighten your neck and roll your shoulders back and down. This will put your ears, shoulders, hips and feet all in alignment with each other, maintaining your spine’s natural curve.
When you stand at home — whether to cook or chat — try not to put all your weight on one leg. We often find this more comfortable, but you’re actually placing unnecessary pressure on one side of your hips and lower back. The right way to stand is with your weight evenly distributed and your feet placed flat on the floor.
And being aware of your posture doesn’t stop when you start moving. Whether you’re leaving the house or just going from room to room, our posture is equally important when walking.
There are several bad posture habits associated with walking, including your head position. Try to keep your head positioned above your spine and looking straight ahead, as hunching over and looking down at your feet or your phone can lengthen your spine and round your shoulders, contributing to bad posture.
You should also try to walk with an upright spine and land your feet down heel-first, rolling forward and pushing off with the front of your foot.
One of the places we need to be most aware of our posture is in bed while we sleep. Lying on your stomach may feel comfortable, but it can put pressure on your spine, particularly your neck which is turned to one side. The best sleep position for your spine is on your back, with one pillow under your head and one under your knees. This helps to maintain your spine’s natural curvature.
Taking care of your back at work
Working at a desk for large chunks of time can wreak havoc on your posture. Desk jobs play a large part in the increasing number of us who lead largely sedentary lifestyles, as we're expected to spend around eight hours a day, five days a week, sitting in a chair. This can shorten the muscles in your lower back, lengthen your neck, round your shoulders and flatten your back, all of which leads to pain and discomfort.
However, there are ways to improve your posture even while at work. Firstly, be sure to take regular movement breaks. Step away from your desk and get moving, even if it’s just a walk to the bathroom or to get a drink. Try to get outside and walk during your lunch break too, as this will help to loosen up your muscles and improve flexibility.
If you’re worried that you’ll forget to take a break, set yourself regular reminders.
You should also make sure that your desk is set up as well as possible to support your posture. Keep your monitor at eye level and your backrest upright. Sit with your feet firmly planted on the floor so that your lower back isn’t supporting all your weight alone.
Correcting your alignment in the gym
Exercise can be a great way to combat bad posture, but you need to make sure you’re moving in the right way. For those who tend to do a lot of heavy lifting at the gym, maintaining proper form is absolutely essential, otherwise you risk injuring your lower back. For movements like deadlifts and kettlebell swings, begin the movement in a squat position with a dip in your back. This will ensure that you lift with your legs rather than your back.
When performed well, these movements can help to build strength in your core, shoulders and back, all of which is great for providing more support for good posture. Some of the best movements for correcting and maintaining your posture include planking and pull ups, so try to incorporate these into your regular workouts.
Of course, one of the most important parts of any gym routine should be to warm up and cool down effectively. Stretching out your body can help to increase mobility and flexibility, both of which make it easier to maintain a naturally good posture. Engaging in forms of exercise like yoga can help you build strength and balance, and can be performed both in the gym and at home.
If you know your posture isn’t great, there are a few things you can do to fix it.
Checking out your posture in a mirror can help. Glance at yourself in the mirror when you have the chance to get a good visual of your stance, and adjust accordingly. Once you’re more familiar with how that feels, you can spot-check yourself throughout the day and make corrections when you need them.
Building up your core muscles (the muscles around your trunk and pelvis) can also get you used to holding yourself in better alignment. If you’ve tried to correct your posture on your own and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere—and you feel like this is causing you pain—physical therapy can be helpful in getting you where you need to be.