The position your body adopts when you’re sitting, standing or lying down is called posture. At certain times we exert conscious control over our posture, such as when standing to attention, preparing to play the piano or when exercising. Most of the time, however, we do not pay attention to the way we hold ourselves, and this is why it is so easy to gain what is thought of as bad posture.
Bad posture means that your body is being held in a certain way that puts unnecessary and sometime harmful pressure on muscles, joints and ligaments. As we adopt these positions out of habit, and that habit becomes comfortable, bad posture can be a vicious cycle which takes considerable effort to break. If you don’t do regular exercise and you don’t hold yourself properly, it’s likely that you have weak core muscles. This can make holding a healthy posture feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, even if you do take regular exercise, but you happen to have a job in which you sit down on an unsuitable chair all day, you may still not be able to align your torso and hips comfortably. In this case it would be a good idea to have your boss look for a better, more ergonomic chair for you to use at work, such as the ones on this interesting list.
The dangers of poor posture are now well-known. At the most superficial level, it gives others a slovenly impression – you look tired, unfit, disinterested and lazy. You probably feel tired and unfit, too, as your bad posture causes you to suffer from sore muscles, which are having to work harder to protect your spine, and can end up fatigued. This can lead to chronic muscle fatigue which can severely affect your ability to work and go about simple tasks effectively. You may see some older people struggling to bend over and lift things from the ground. There is a good chance that this is a result of poor posture earlier in life. If the spine actually changes its shape, this can result in chronic pain and mobility problems for life.
At the serious end of the effects of bad posture are problems such as restricting the flow of blood through capillaries and even minor arteries. If this happens, muscle and organ tissue can die, and potentially life-threatening blood clots can form.
Being able to switch from being a slouch to someone with good posture is more difficult than it sounds. It is simple enough to ensure that your neck, shoulders, torso and hips are aligned – you can check your own posture in the mirror. The difficult part is maintaining that position. When you’re in a meeting that is entering its third hour, you’re waiting for a bus, or you’re at home watching your favorite shows, it’s very easy to return to bad posture. One way to help remind yourself to straighten up is to ask other people to tell you. Have your partner or coworker act as a drill sergeant, reminding you with a quick bark “shoulders back!” whenever they catch you slipping. Even better than that, set yourself a periodic alarm to check your posture, or little notes as reminders. Getting into the habit of adopting good posture by habit takes practice, but it can be done. Think of the teenage kid who walks around, shoulders forward, staring at his toes. Then compare the same person after going through basic training – chin up, shoulders back, and good all-round posture. If a kid can perfect their posture in ten weeks of military training, you can do it as a civilian, too.
Not only will you feel healthier, you will look better and more confident. Your breathing will become deeper and easier overall as you cease restricting the volume of your lungs by slouching forward. As we have seen, your circulation will improve, as will your digestive functions – bad posture is thought to be a major factor in the development of acid reflux and constipation. Your state of mind will improve – not only will you look confident, but you will feel less anxious, and mentally stronger. All of this will convey a positive image on others, making you more attractive, something which will help you keep up your new, good posture.