We forget how important our posture is to our health and physique, so here are a few ways to help set you!
You’re exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, and hopefully getting enough sleep at night — but how often do you think about your posture, another important key to overall health?
Posture refers to the way your body is positioned, and is characterized by the way you assume your body relative to activity. Forces like gravity are placed on your body and distributed throughout your extremities, but various positions place different stresses on your joints, muscles, and ligaments (think about sitting versus standing, for example). Posture that deviates from normal alignment can cause adaptive changes in your tissues, leading to increased mechanical stress that may cause injury or damage.
Good posture is indicated by how balanced and efficient your body is during periods of static and dynamic activity. Particularly, the relationship between the pelvis and lumbar spine is a good prognosis of spine health. Excessive tilting of the pelvis either anteriorly or posteriorly can change the optimal curvature of the lumbar spine, negatively affecting spine health. Poor posture over a long period of time can have other consequences and contribute to disorders such as tension headaches, shoulder joint instability, and lower-back pain. Slouching, for example, may initially feel good, but letting the spine out of optimal position too frequently can lead to imbalances between muscle length and strength.
Here are some tips you can follow to improve your posture and minimize excessive stress:
1. Sit or stand straight but comfortably. Try “sucking” the belly button in towards the spine. A slight contraction of the abdominal muscles will help to maintain the spine in a neutral position, and can make your stomach appear flatter!
2. Signs of faulty posture also include a forward head and rounded-shoulder appearance. Focus on bringing shoulders back, down, and together when standing or sitting.
3. Maintain harmony between opposing muscle groups. Agonist and antagonist muscles should be balanced in order to prevent compensatory changes from occurring.
4. Consider body mechanics while lifting, both inside and outside of the gym. Hold objects close to the center of the body, and use proper lifting techniques.
5. Common muscles that tend to be tight include (but are not limited to) the neck, chest, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Try to incorporate low- to moderate-intensity stretching as part of your cooldown after exercising. Muscle elongation generally occurs after the tissue has been warmed, as they are more receptive to stretching. Stretching, however, should not cause intense pain.
6. Work in an ergonomically beneficial space. This is especially important if movement is limited to one position for long periods of time. Keep your computer and television screens at eye level. Also, try to take frequent breaks to give muscles an opportunity to loosen up.
Impairments in posture directly influence how efficiently muscles, joints, and ligaments manage different stressors that are placed on the body, and long-term poor posture can lead to compensations in range of motion and strength. Making a conscious effort and reinforcing proper posture will help to alleviate or change any deficiencies. One of the keys to a robust lifestyle is to maintain balance and reduce stress, and a combination of exercise, healthy eating, sleeping, and postural awareness can make all the difference in your health and longevity.
By Jessica Evans