“Sit up straight!” “Don’t slouch!” Sound familiar? That timeless advice we have all been given at one point or another and even though we may not be aware of the biomechanical rationale behind this advice – it’s not something we should brush off. In today’s technology driven world, often we find ourselves sitting at a computer desk, slouched over on the couch watching our favorite Netflix series or scrolling through our Instagram feeds. The overuse of smart phones, computers and binge-watching TV can keep many people distracted and unaware of their poor posture. Sure, you know that good posture comes with a variety of benefits, but it may not have occurred to you the impact poor posture has on your health.
What is good posture and why is it so important? Posture refers to the body’s alignment and can be divided into two categories: dynamic and static. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you are moving: when you are walking to your car, exercising at the gym or bending over to pick up your groceries. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving: sitting at your desk, standing in line at your local coffee shop or sleeping. To make matters more complex – gravity comes into play. No matter if you are standing, sitting or lying down, gravity is ever present, exerting force on your joints, ligaments and muscles. Good posture is maintaining the natural S curve of your spine, aligning your head, shoulders and hips in a way that no one structure is overstressed.
Take an architect for example. When designing a building, the architect factors in the forces of gravity and weight distribution to ensure a strong, balanced foundation. A building with a bad foundation may be able to stand for a while, but the building will be less resistant to the environmental stresses it will experience over time. The body is no different. A body with poor posture will be much less resilient to the strains and stresses of everyday life. If you find yourself fatigued by the end of a long day at the office – you aren’t alone – and your posture could be the culprit. If poor posture isn’t addressed, it can lead to muscular imbalances as your body tries to compensate which can cause chronic pain, low mobility and even more seriously injury or kyphosis.
So, what can you do to correct your posture and take care of your body’s foundation?
- Make it a point to be mindful of your posture throughout your day. Set yourself up for success by investing into a quality chair with lumbar support. If you don’t have access to a chair with proper lumbar support or most of your day is spent driving – a simple fix is to roll up a bath towel or use a small pillow in the arch of your lower back.
- Stretch regularly and change positions throughout your workday. Spend some time each hour stretching and standing to alleviate the strain on your neck and lower back.
- Maintain a healthy weight and stay active. Little to no equipment is needed to perform corrective exercises to build a strong foundation and keep your body healthy throughout your life. A simple but highly effective exercise is the plank. The standard plank or a dynamic side plank variation allow you to focus on keeping your back flat and pulling your shoulders back into alignment. As a bonus – it’s a total core challenge and so easy to do throughout your day – even if you are stuck in a cubicle!