Growing up, I can remember my mother saying the following: “Sit up straight boy, stop slouching, do not bend over like that because you will end up with terrible posture.” As a young boy, I had no idea of what she meant. In hindsight, my mother was right (and a great educator too)! In today’s day and age of technology, less activity and overall laziness, good posture is more important now than perhaps it ever has been. Unless you want to be like the elderly man or woman who cannot lift their head to look straight ahead, then I suggest you start paying more attention to your posture. With that being said, shall we discuss posture in general, what happens to your body with bad posture and how to achieve great posture.
What is Posture?
Quite simply, posture is the way our respective bodies position themselves. It can also be defined as the way our head, neck, shoulders, hips, knees and foot/ankle are positioned while standing still or in motion. When we think of good posture, this is what typically comes to mind: our body straightened up, chin raised and shoulders relaxed and in a down position. A great example of this would be a military person standing at attention. When we think of bad posture, this is what typically comes to mind: our body is slouched or hunched over, our shoulders are rounded forward and we have some terrible looking curve in our backs! A great example of this would be the hunchback of Notre Dame. The latter is something we should all try to avoid and let us talk about the reasons why.
What Happens When We Have Bad Posture?
Bad posture does not happen over night. If we do a lot of daily: sitting, driving and repetitive movements without paying attention to what position our body is in, then we typically end up with bad posture. From a psychological standpoint, bad posture could be the result of feeling anxious, not motivated and not optimistic on life (yes, our mood affects our bodies physically). As a result of all this, we end up with skeletal and muscle pain, joint restriction or just general discomfort. Our bodies end up misaligned with muscle imbalances and, ultimately, we set it up for degeneration, ouch! However, no need to fret just yet, because there are a few simple things we can do to improve or enhance our posture immediately!
How to Achieve Great Posture
There are a few simple things we can do to make sure that we have great posture. They are so simple that we can start doing them today! The first thing we should do is to observe our current body position. Is our head pointing straight ahead and ears aligned with our shoulders? Is our shoulders pulled back and not rounding forward? Is our stomach tucked or pulled in? Is our belt line straight around our waist or it below or above it. How about our knees and feet, are they facing straight ahead or turned in or out. Remember, we do want our posture to look like the military persona standing at attention.
After we observe our posture and make those corrections, then we should work to make sure that our bodies will adapt to that position. This is going to require us to do certain exercises. I recommend things such as single balance exercises, core exercises and integrated exercises that incorporate both balance and core exercises. Exercises for Better Posture
Lastly, after we have observed our posture and done exercises to allow our postures to improve, it is not time to make sure that we maintain what we have developed. This requires us to be aware of how we sit and stand at home, work and while driving in our cars. Even though we cannot avoid doing these things, we can certainly be fully aware of how we position our bodies. The following link is a great example of how to position our bodies when we stand and sit: Better Body Positioning for Better Posture
So, there you have. As I am sure we all know, mothers know best. If all else fails, let us remember back to our youth when our mom use to say: “Stand and sit up straight!”
Links for Exercises and Pictures of Good Posture http://www.wikihow.com/Improve-Your-Posture
Maurice D. Williams is a personal trainer and owner of Move Well Fitness in Bethesda, MD.
Postural Assessment by Jane Johnson, 2012.
Human Kinetics; NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Third Edition. 2008