In this article, we’ll take a look at how improving your posture will help prevent pain and injuries, and how it is directly related to better overall health and wellness. We have consulted with a range of authoritative sources and Dr Steve Button, A Milton Keynes based Chiropractor with 17 years of experience treating back and spinal problems.
Posture is simply the way you hold your body when sitting, standing, lying down and moving as a result of habits formed over the course of your life. We can summarise posture into two main types:
Dynamic - this type of posture is how you hold your body when active such as running, walking, cycling or basically anytime you move throughout the day.
Static - this type of posture is how you hold your body when stationary such as sitting, standing or sleeping.
In order to have good overall posture, it’s important to focus on improving both types, dynamic and static, not just one over the other.
The position of your spine plays an important role when it comes to posture. The spine is our body’s central support structure helping us stay upright and connects the different parts of our skeleton to each other.
It has three natural curves at your neck, mid-back, and lower back. When focusing on improving posture you should aim to maintain these curves.
Running alongside your spine from top to bottom are muscles (often referred to as postural muscles) and vertebrae responsible for providing support and balance. Having good posture helps to avoid straining these muscle groups so you can carry out daily activities.
But when you increase spinal curvature and position your spine in unnatural positions, it opens the doorway for bad posture to seep in by placing stress and a build-up of pressure on these tissues.
For example, when standing upright your head should be directly above your shoulders, and the top of your shoulders should be directly above your hips.
The diagrams below show an ideal plumb line for good posture and how it should run throughout the body from a front and side-on view.
To fully understand where the nature of your posture problems are originating from it’s important to identify what type of posture you have. Some of the most common forms of bad posture include:
Developing bad posture is much like any other habit and usually goes unnoticed for long periods of time until suddenly something gives. Most common posture issues evolve from basic everyday actions which is where the trouble lays when it comes to correction. These include:
“Subtle misalignment in the back and neck brought on by factors such as sedentary lifestyles, heavy smartphone use, long days at desk jobs and even sleep habits are setting the stage for more serious problems,” says biomechanics expert Dr Mark Cucuzzella.
When it comes to improving your health and wellbeing, good posture might not be the first thing that springs to mind.
But taking notice of how you hold your body can have a huge effect on whether or not you run into certain chronic problems like osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as how your body feels and functions on a daily basis.
When bones and muscles are being held in an unnatural position for extended periods of time it amounts to increased pressure on your joints. Whatsmore, poor spinal posture can eventually lead to nerve damage due to compression.
However, when you set about taking appropriate action to correct your posture it will lead to many great benefits such as:
“Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way, but with a bit of practise, good posture will become second nature” Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield.
Failure to take notice of and correct postural problems can have many negative effects on your daily life such as:
Maintaining proper posture requires muscle strength, joint flexibility, and balance. Abnormal postural alignment can be detrimental to muscle function and could possibly contribute to joint pain.
With exercise, you can target specific muscle groups that play an important role in helping maintain good posture. A slumped posture from working long hours in a poor position, like on a laptop, can be improved with a focus on building core muscles and stretching tight muscles in the upper back and neck.
Strengthening core muscles around the abdomen plays a leading role in posture support as well as your back, shoulders and chest. Focusing on getting stronger while maintaining proper form and stretching when you exercise is a great way to correct muscular imbalance and stability.
There are many different types of exercise that can help with posture-related problems but here are six popular ones to try out.
Low impact exercise believed to improve flexibility, and balance, and even help with muscle strength. A recent study was carried out to investigate the impact of Pilates and postural alignment in healthy adults after the completion of a 16-session program. The research found that there was a positive improvement on postural alignment in healthy adults, besides being a safe exercise.
This low impact total body movement through water helps increase core stability and builds up back and shoulder strength, all key factors in achieving better posture.
Focuses on overloading your body in a progressive manner to gradually become stronger by targeting specific muscle groups directly related to better posture. Powerlifting involves workouts based around the three major compound lifts — squat, bench, and deadlift, and is used to target multiple muscle groups with each exercise.
But it’s important to note that before attempting this style of training it’s strongly advised to place particular emphasis on getting your technique perfected first. Remember, poor form may end up causing injury that leads to more damage and your posture could get worse.
However, with weight training, you can easily single out weak points in your body and actively set about to make them stronger with isolation exercises. Exercises such as farmer carries, lat pull-downs, seated cable rows, and reverse snow angels can all have huge carryover to improve posture when performed correctly.
A practise that involves physical poses, concentration, and deep breathing. It is commonly used to treat stress and anxiety but is also a fantastic way to improve flexibility and strength by stretching your muscles. Studies show that yoga helps improve bad posture, in particular hyperkyphosis, and also leads to an overall increase in wellbeing.
An exercise based around slow and deliberate flowing movement helping to improve the body's alignment, posture, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and stamina. This exercise is particularly useful for those who want a more low impact style workout.
The following types of cardio exercise can be great for improving your posture as long as the focus is on the correct technique and postural alignment rather than speed and power.
There is no one size fits all answer for how long it will take each individual before their posture improves. But, as a general rule of thumb, 30 days of following a good posture routine through exercise and stretching should be enough for most people to start seeing improvements.
Walking around every day with bad posture is hard work and with time it definitely begins to take its toll on your wellbeing. Pain and discomfort can be frustrating to deal with. The good news is there’s an abundance of exercises and stretches out there that can really make a difference.
Why not pick some that jump out at you from this article and give them a try for at least 30 days. It might just be what you need. And remember, ‘The best posture is your next posture!’