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Having a healthy posture is one of the best things you can do to feel good inside and out. Good posture occurs when you sit, stand, walk and lie in positions that put the least amount of strain on your body’s supporting muscles and ligaments. Poor posture causes aches and pains, and slouching makes you appear small and unsure. Good posture prevents pain, makes you look taller and gives you confidence.
Poor posture often begins in childhood. In one study that obtained data from more than 3,520 school children, researchers diagnosed poor posture in 38.3 percent. Many of these children will continue to have poor posture as they grow older.
Muscles work together to move your bones at the joints. One group of muscles will pull a bone in one direction while an opposing group of muscles pulls the bone in the other direction. Muscles work by contracting, or shortening, and stretching. When one group of muscles contract to pull on the bone, the opposing group of muscles stretch to allow the bone to move.
Certain muscles are active all of the time. These muscles, known as postural muscles, help you stay upright. Poor posture causes postural muscles to work harder, in that poor posture causes one group of muscles to stretch too far and causes the other group of muscles to remain too tight.
When this happens, neither set of muscles works efficiently so they waste a lot of energy trying to keep your body in its proper position. This leaves you feeling tired by the end of the day.
Overstretched and overly tight muscles also pull your bones and joints in the wrong directions. This imbalance and misalignment can lead to joint damage, aches and pains. Left untreated, this can lead to chronic pain and disability.
Healthy posture benefits your physical body as well as your mental and emotional well-being. Good posture while sitting or standing distributes even, balanced pressure to the spine and its muscles and ligaments. This balanced distribution of work reduces physical stress to the body that, in turn, reduces the occurrence of headaches, stiff necks, backaches and other aches and pains.
Having healthy posture also makes you feel good mentally and emotionally. In fact, one study found that good posture boosts your confidence in your own thoughts. Participants who sat up straight while answering a job interview questionnaire felt more confident in their ability to get the job than those who slouched.
Fortunately, you can improve your posture with a few easy steps.
Evaluate your posture. Stand with your heels about six inches away from a wall and gently rest your shoulders, buttocks and the back of your head against that wall. There should be about two inches between the small of your back and the wall – just enough room to slide your hand between your back and the wall. The same goes for your neck – there should be two inches or less between the back of your neck and the wall. A larger gap indicates poor posture.
Stand with your shoulders back and aligned. Tighten your abdominal muscles to pull your stomach into alignment. Bend your knees slightly to reduce strain on your hips.
Walk with your chin parallel to the ground. Strike the ground first with your heel then roll your weight onto your toes. Look ahead rather than down at the ground.
Keep your head straight, rather than tilted up or down, while you sit. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Sit so that your knees are slightly lower than your hips, with your feet flat on the ground.
Sleep on a firm mattress that provides support. Stretch before bed to ease muscle tension.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity strengthens muscles and helps you lose weight; both can help improve your posture.
Consult with an orthopedic, sports fitness or physical therapy professional at Revere Health to learn more about good posture. Our health professionals can provide guidance, training and support that help you improve your posture.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.