Having good posture doesn’t just keep you looking tall and feeling confident, having good posture is a daily habit formed over many years that can have a huge impact on your overall health.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) defines posture as the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.
While good posture promotes overall health, poor posture can worsen energy levels, breathing, stress, sleep, even aging. This is due to the way our tissues are stretched over time, the slow damage that happens to the tissue, and hormonal changes that occur during these positions.
Research shows that correct posture and positive body language can influence hormones linked to disease resistance and affect our decisions and leadership abilities. In a popular TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy said that posture may even impact our chances for success.
On the other hand, poor posture is often the root cause of many pain issues including low back pain, neck pain, and headaches. According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 80 percent of the population in the United States experiences low back pain at some point in their lives. This may be due to poor posture developed when sitting for long periods, which can be common in today's workforce.
However, it's never too late to take steps to improve your posture. Try out these five tips that may lead to improving your overall health:
1. Practice correct sitting and standing posture.
Before you can form new daily habits, it's important to learn the proper posture for standing and sitting.
- A good stance to maintain is having your shoulder align with your ear and your hips align with your ankle.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent.
- Carry your weight predominately on the balls of your feet.
- To find the correct standing posture, bring the shoulders all the way back and inward slightly, then bring the hips all the way forward and back slightly.
- Feet should be flat on the floor with your ankles in front of your knees.
- The lower back should be supported by a cushion and forearms parallel to the ground.
- Try not to sit in the same position for extended periods of time.
2. Find the right shoes.
Proper shoes provide the foundation for good posture. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends the following when purchasing new shoes:
- Feet can swell during the day so try on new shoes in the afternoon or evening.
- For the best fit, there should be a half inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
- If your feet are curved, wide, or straight, try purchasing a shoe that conforms to that shape.
- Avoid pointed shoes that can crowd toes and opt for round or square toed shoes.
- Walk around in the shoe on different surfaces to better gauge comfort.
3. Perform regular exercise and stretching activities.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can help you make significant strides toward overcoming years of poor posture habits. Popular among athletes, yoga has the added benefit of improving flexibility and helping to prevent injuries.
Those who spend most of their time sitting in an office will benefit from yoga and other exercises or stretches. When performed regularly, these exercises can help improve conditions such as rounded shoulders and incorrect head posture.
Posture-improving activities include:
- Arm and shoulder roll
- Plank pose
- Seated dumbbell row
- Seated twist
- Physio ball sitting exercise
- Toe touch stretch
4. Limit the time you spend with technology.
Modern technology has made it even more difficult to practice proper posture and can be a big culprit for poor posture habits. For desktop computers, ensure that the monitor is positioned at eye level, so the neck isn't strained looking up or down. While working at a computer, arms and legs should also be bent at 90-degree angles.
Practicing good posture with cell phones, laptops, and tablets is much more difficult. Therefore, Dr. Arick suggests limiting the time spent with these devices to a certain number of minutes in a day to avoid the poor posture habits they promote.
5. Get your posture assessed to address any major issues.
Posture assessment should be a fundamental part of any major health evaluation. Chiropractic physicians can help patients discover bad habits early on before they contribute to major health issues. They can also suggest exercises specific to your needs.
Some chiropractic physicians provide ergonomic workplace evaluations to help create a more productive and safe environment. Repetitive actions that involve reaching and lifting can be of particular concern and can cause strain and even injury.
The health issues or pain symptoms caused by poor posture build up over time and are aggravated by daily activities. By changing daily habits, you can help combat many of these conditions.
National University's clinicians and interns provide posture assessments and other chiropractic services, Monday through Saturday, at the NUHS Whole Health Center in Lombard. To schedule an appointment, call 630-629-9664.
We invite you to learn about other ways you can improve your overall health and well-being this year by subscribing to our blog — The Future of Integrative Health.
About the Author
Dr. Christopher Arick