Why Should We Improve Our Posture?
We’ve all heard it before: “shoulders back, chest out, suck in that gut.” Throughout time, people have always been telling others to sit up straight (bring back memories of your relatives’ advice?). Believe it or not, the importance of posture goes beyond aesthetics and perception of the individual. Rounding your shoulders and slumping over in your seat places unnecessary stress on your joints, ligaments, and muscles. The price of pain and damage from poor posture far outweighs the time investment required to fix it.
How does posture tie into the bigger health picture?
The truth is that you live your entire life through your spine. Before moving your legs or flexing a muscle, your brain has to send an electrical signal down your spine to the area you desire before you move a muscle. The more straight your spine is, the faster the connection of the spinal electrical impulse, and the more efficient you move. As an analogy for spinal electrical conductance, consider a water hose. If there is a kink in the hose, the water either trickles out or shuts off completely. Your spinal signal conduction is no different. Spinal health is thus a very important piece of the overall health puzzle.
Sources of Poor Posture
Nowadays, so many of us are sitting at computers and mobile devices without considering the damage to our skeletal, muscular, or nervous systems. Further complicating the picture are misconceptions about our bones. Most individuals consider bone to be stable and unchanging. In reality, bone is a dynamic organ that is growing and shrinking in response to our dietary and lifestyle choices, including poor posture. By leaning over your desk for 8-10 hours a day to complete that overdue project, you are molding your bones to promote further slouching.
Poor posture is also strongly influenced by muscular imbalance. For example, overdeveloped chest muscles and front deltoids along with underdeveloped scapular and rear deltoids creates an imbalance. In this scenario, overdeveloped front muscle groups generate a stronger pull that overpowers the less developed back muscles. Over time, the shoulders will continually roll forward as you sit with this muscular imbalance, leading to diminished posture. Weak core muscles are also a major contributor to poor posture. With underdeveloped abdominals, it is more difficult to hold yourself upright and slouching ensues.
Exercises to Correct Poor Posture
Now that we know what causes poor posture, what can be done to fix it? Fortunately, the body is fluid and can be changed and corrected. Let’s discuss a few simple exercises to incorporate into your daily routine to correct your posture.
Rear Deltoid Raise
Start with a small dumbbell in each hand, bending your knees slightly and bent over and hanging in front of you. Imagine as if you were going to tie your shoes. Keep a tight core throughout the duration of the exercise and leave your arms hanging below you towards your feet. Next, gradually move the two dumbbells apart and form a “T” shape with your arms, with your knuckles elevated towards the ceiling. Once fully elevated, slowly lower the dumbbells back down in front of you to the original starting position. That is the completion of one repetition. Ensure that your back is tight and aligned throughout the duration of the exercise.
Upright Barbell Row
For this next exercise, use a straight barbell of a medium weight and start in the same position as the first exercise. Slightly bend your knees again and maintain a tight core and flat back. Next, pretend there is a ball between your shoulder blades and pinch them together to maintain a tight upper back for the lift. Lift the barbell off the rack, and with arms hanging straight below, pull the barbell up to your midsection. Maintain full weight control and slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position to complete one repetition.
No Gym? No Problem
Not everyone has access to the gym on a regular basis. To reinforce better posture at home, follow these two simple tips:
(1) While seated, maintain an imaginary ball between your shoulder blades. Retract your shoulders together and maintain a tight position. However, do not overexert yourself, since you are just using this to tighten your posture while seated.
(2) Make sure your rear is always pushed to the back of the chair. This will keep your spine erect while seated and reinforce better seating habits. When you sit towards the edge of the seat, or lean backwards, this places undue stress on the lower back. Consistently sitting on the edge of your seat will cause serious pain and agitation over time.
Don’t Forget About Text Neck
A final piece of advice for mobile users: slouching your head over to look down at your mobile device places a significant burden on the upper neck area. Consider this: at an angle of 60° while looking down at your mobile device, the strain placed on your neck goes from 10 pounds to 60 pounds! As a result, the vertebrae in your neck are experiencing tremendous strain that has lasting negative effects. This phenomenon is known as text neck, and it is becoming a serious posture issue in modern society.
Since going to your chiropractor to alleviate excruciating neck pain can get expensive, here is a simple tip to alleviate text neck. First, take your index and middle fingers and place them firmly on your chin. Next, hold your neck back for fifteen (15) seconds consecutively. Relax your neck and allow it to be pressed back. This allows your neck to realign with your spinal column. Repeat this a few times throughout the day as a simple remedy for text neck.
Bringing It All Together
Good posture is something we should all strive to achieve but there is no singular approach. Our ligament and tendon health varies, as does our calcium metabolism, which can affect bone development. Find what methods resonate with you and try to integrate them into your daily routine. Remember the benefits of good posture far outweigh the disadvantages. Good posture:
• Increases your ability for lungs to expand and breathe
• Increases focus and energy as brain and body receive additional oxygen
• Helps you appear taller and slimmer
• Improves mood and confidence
• Will save you a lot of pain, time, and money that would go to a professional
Posture seems like such a simple concept, but it is one of the most neglected areas of personal health. With a little bit of effort modifying your daily routines, you will be sitting up straight and living better in no time.