More often than we think, our body is in the wrong position (referred to as poor posture), and that can cause some major health problems.
Beyond making us look less than our best and causing us issues like back pain or headaches, poor posture can lead to many chronic and lasting health issues. Chronic fatigue, herniated discs and compromised physical performance can all result from poor posture maintained over the years.
There are many causes of poor posture. Here are a few:
Common Causes of Poor Posture:
Good posture keeps the body aligned and stable with the least possible expenditure of energy. To achieve this, it is important that the spine is kept without any lateral (side-to-side) deviation and that it does not curl up or down in the wrong places.
Luckily, there are methods to help you enhance your posture right now.
Some of these will have an immediate effect. Others may take longer to show results but rest assured, improving your posture is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Using Exercise to Help Improve Posture
To maintain a correct posture it is important that we become aware of how we’re already holding our bodies.
We also need to understand that just because we’re not in pain, that doesn’t mean our bodies are aligned properly. Sometimes we get so used to our normal ways of movement that we lose the ability to tell when they are off.
Certain disciplines such as Pilates and Yoga help us to become aware of each part of our own body, to help them function both independently and globally.
Body alignment is one of the basic principles of Pilates and Yoga, which is why we sometimes recommend those forms of exercise to help improve posture.
Muscle toning is also highly important when maintaining good posture. Strong muscles, dense bones and joints with a good range of motion will make us more effective and efficient in our day-to-day movements.
If you choose to do other activities like Spin classes where you maintain the same position for a long period of time, make sure to pay attention to all instructions about correct posture.
How to make good posture a habit
As with most things in life, we should start step-by-step, not rushing things or expecting huge results right away.
It takes time to adjust our body into having good posture. Therefore, the best thing to do is to begin with small steps and incorporate them slowly into your daily routine.
Below are 9 simple tips and exercises that will help you achieve success as quickly as possible.
9 Simple Tips and Exercises to Improve Your Posture
Improve your flexibility
Flexibility is essential for good health and there are many, many daily routines to help improve yours. For now, these first two exercises work directly on your posture and are a simple way to get started:
Exercise #1: Put both hands, palms out and arms bent, behind your back. Take one hand and hold your opposite wrist. Stretch gently and try to bring your shoulder blades together. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times a day and you will begin to feel the tension ease off over time.
Exercise #2: Place your back against a wall with your arms out to your sides, elbows bent and fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Push your head against the wall, squeeze your shoulder blades together and move your arms up and down 10 times while keeping the rest of your body still.
If you want a video demonstration of this exercise, our own Dr. Scott Cruse has an excellent video on our Instagram page here: Wall Angels Demo Video
Align your spine at night
Believe it or not, the way you sleep can also influence the way you sit and stand when you’re awake.
An easy way to keep your spine straight is to place a firm pillow between your knees when you’re lying sideways. This takes the extra pressure off your spine and keeps it from twisting asymmetrically.
The best position for sleeping well is sideways and with your legs slightly tucked up. This position helps to keep the spine aligned and facilitates ease of breathing, thus helping to reduce snoring.
This video from Dr. Casey McGuire at our McHenry, IL location walks you through this process step by step:
Adjust your wardrobe
Do you wear heels to work every day or other uncomfortable footwear?
Wearing high heels forces you to lean your body forward which, in turn, can cause you to slouch. If you can, try not to wear heels higher than 7 cm. Along with shoes, book bags, purses, and other things many people wear all day, wardrobe can seriously impair your posture.
Also, carrying a heavy bag every day can add a lot of strain to your shoulders, forcing you to roll them forward.
Try switching to a bag with a strap that you can position across your body (or at least empty excess items from your bag to make it as light as possible).
Make changes to your work environment
Many people spend a lot of their time bent over a desk and rarely get up during the day. Since you can’t always get up or incorporate active movements, try making small adjustments to relieve stress.
Standing desks are becoming more common in the workplace. There are even adjustable ones so you can switch from sitting to standing and vice versa.
Another thing you can do at work is to step away from the desk more often and walk around a bit, at least 5 minutes every 1 or 2 hours.
Looking in the Mirror
It is very helpful to stand in front of a full-length mirror while correcting your posture. You should distribute your weight evenly on both feet, throwing your shoulders back so they remain level.
Want to see if you’re in proper alignment? Stand with the side of your body facing the mirror and try to draw an imaginary straight line down from the back of your ear, over your shoulder, behind your hip and knee, and down to your ankle.
Work on Your Sitting Posture
Check that your back is straight, your shoulders are back and down and the soles of your feet are flat on the floor. Studies indicate poor posture while sitting can cause several health problems.
Remember that it is not good to cross your legs for a long time, as this can obstruct circulation and cause swollen legs or varicose veins.
Do This When You Are Standing
The chest should gently lift upwards with your abdomen activated, as the abdominal muscles help us to stay stable.
The weight of the body should be distributed between the two legs and the knees should be slightly bent. Remember what we said in the Mirror tip about being able to draw a line down the side of your body.
Walking With Better Posture
As we walk, we must also take care of our posture. The head should be kept up and the neck straight. It may be helpful to visualize your head as hanging from a string attached to the ceiling directly above you.
Along those lines, avoid looking at the floor too long, as this can cause neck pain. Also, try to step with the heel of your foot first and then move to the toe.
The Miracle of Regular Exercising
Exercises are key to stretching, strengthening and loosening muscles, which will keep them in optimal condition. This is obviously important for maintaining good posture.
There are many types of exercise you can engage in and it’s best to choose something you enjoy so it will be easier to stay consistent.
As we mentioned before, many people find Yoga and Pilates helpful for improving posture but you are welcome to try other methods. The most important thing is for you to get in at least some active movement every single day.
Which of these Posture Tips Will You Use First?
Maintaining good posture helps you walk, sit, stand, dance or whatever else you find yourself doing on a daily basis with greater ease. You will learn to use body positions that put less pressure on the muscles and ligaments during movement and when carrying weight.
You will likely also notice an effect on your self-esteem because good posture helps you to look and feel your best.
By adopting these good posture habits and incorporating them into our lives, we can prevent unnecessary injuries and pain, and improve our quality of life and health.
Been more than 2 weeks since your last chiropractic adjustment? Time to get back on the table!
Call your nearest Evolve Chiropractor to set up an appointment today.