One of the most eyeball inducing demands of a parent is “Sit up straight.” As kids, we simply don’t want to sit that way. It is much easier to slouch because we don’t have to think about it. But science, doctors, and chiropractors now have more information to support what our mothers have been saying all along. Before rolling your eyes and clicking away, take a couple of minutes to see just why a change in your position can help your entire body – not just your back.
Constantly remembering to sit and stand up straight seems like a lot of work. It is much easier to simply give in and let your body go with gravity, right? Well, it is easier when you are young. However, as you age, it actually lowers your body’s abilities and exacerbates other health issues.
What Is Proper Posture?
One of the reasons it is easy to eye roll your way out of listening to someone nagging about good posture is because they rarely actually tell you what it is. Sure, it is easy to try to sit up straight, but there is more to it.
To have proper posture when sitting, you need to do the following:
- Sit up straight
- Face forward with your head up (not looking down)
- Shoulders are at a 90 degree angle to the neck
- Feet are flat on the floor
- Knees are at a 90 degree angle
- Keep your arm close to your body
Proper posture when standing requires you to do the following:
- Keep your head directly over your back (someone should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your feet)
- Shoulders held even and back
- Move around – standing up straight for long periods of time without moving can actually hurt you
Except for moving around when standing, most of those are pretty hard to follow. Trying to keep good posture at work or school can seem like an impossible task. If you are already starting to think that it sounds like too much work, here are some amazing benefits you will get over time from sitting and standing properly.
Posture’s Influence on Other Organs
The question “why do we need good posture” is actually valid considering how much it feels unnatural at first. The short answer is for your entire well-being.
Your posture doesn’t just affect your back. It affects your entire body.
As people spend an increasing number of hours every day sitting at desks, staring at screens, and typing with their head down over a smartphone, they are doing some serious damage to your entire body. A sedentary posture needs to counteract the hours you spend sitting (although you should definitely make a point to stand up and stretch at least once an hour).
Your Skelton and Muscles
The most obvious benefit of good posture is on the muscles and skeleton. When you keep your skeleton aligned, it reduces the amount of strain on individual bones. As gravity pulls you into a “more comfortable position,” your spine is compressed in some areas and elongated in others. This goes against your body’s natural S-shaped curve.
Your muscles are also one of the first casualties of bad posture. When you have good posture, your muscles will retain more of the functionality for longer. This is largely because of how closely your muscles and bones work together. You cannot negatively affect one without negatively affecting the other.
Reduced Pain in Your Head, Shoulders, and Lower Extremities
If you find yourself getting frequent headaches or your legs hurt when you stand up after long periods of sitting, bad posture is almost certainly at fault. When you sit or stand in a way that hurts both your muscles and your bones (particularly your spine), your body doesn’t stay quiet. The pain is a warning that you have done something that is causing your harm.
Most people experience pain in their legs and feet from sitting too long. While being sedentary for too long is bad for your body, when you don’t have good posture, you do even more damage. Fortunately, it isn’t too late to start listening to your body. If you start correcting your posture, you will find that your headaches are reduced, and your legs and feet will object less when you do finally stand.
Your Respiratory and Digestive Systems
The least obvious organs affected by your posture are your lungs and your digestive system. When you hunch up over a computer, you are physically reducing how much space all of your internal organs have. One of the best benefits of good posture is that your digestion will improve.
However, it is the benefits to your lungs that should really make you start to change your posture. By keeping your body aligned with the natural S curve, you increase your lung capacity. This will make it considerably easier to breathe. In turn, it helps your circulatory system, which is just the cherry on top of the cake.
Ultimately, all of your body is positively affected either directly or indirectly by adapting proper posture.
Posture, Behavior, and Mood
The most shocking benefit of good posture is the effect that it has on your mind and your mood. By sitting up straight in your chair, you start to change your outlook on the world – or at least increase your confidence. Sitting up straight is viewed by others as a sign of confidence. That is then internalized, making people feel more confident in their own abilities.
Confidence is an obvious way to give you a better outlook on the world, but that isn’t the only way posture affects your mind. When you sit up straight, you are telling your body that you are feeling positive emotions. Consider what a person does when they are sad. They slump over and cry, or stare sadly at the ground.
Your posture is one way that your brain understands your emotions. Even if you aren’t feeling sad or depressed, slouching can make your brain think that you are. If you are sitting for hours every day, there is a good reason that you usually in a worse mood when you finally do stand.
Improving Your Posture
Improving your posture isn’t as bad as you think.
- Wear low heels and showed with good arch support
- Move regularly, keeping anything carried close (backpacks against back)
- Do exercises that encourage good posture (balance exercises are the best for this, such as yoga)
- Set reminders to check your posture over the course of the day
The main thing will be keeping your posture in mind for a few weeks. Over time, you will naturally start to sit and stand in ways that are beneficial to your entire body.