Growing up, we have all probably heard our teachers and/or parents bang on about our posture. Stand up straight, don’t slouch, put your shoulders back, sit upright and the list goes on. Are these all just nagging? Is posture just an abstract concept that is part of childhood? Or, is there a deeper reason why posture is so important?
Aside from aesthetic reasons, there may well be actual reasons why standing up erect is so important for health!
What is good posture?
The human body is naturally asymmetrical in the placement of organs and systems and, according to Sanford Health, posture is the way your muscles and skeleton hold your body erect. Ensuring that your body is in a “neutral” position so that your pelvis, trunk, and head are in their optimal position to work effectively and efficiently is therefore the essense of good posture.
What health benefits does good posture have?
- Improved breathing
A study by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has said that bad posture can affect your breathing and lung capacity. When you regularly slouch, these muscles become shortened, which decreases your body’s ability to take deep breaths. In fact, slumping in your seat or standing with rounded shoulders greatly decreases your ability to take in oxygen. By practicing good posture, you can improve your breathing ability by as much as 30%.
2. Better Concentration and Focus
The average human brain has over 100 billion neurons and 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. These neurons and synapses are responsible for your memory concentration, and all information transmission in your brain. And these receptors are especially dependent on oxygen. By improving your posture, you open up your body to better oxygen (though improved breathing) and blood circulation, meaning that you’ll also improve your ability to concentrate and focus.
3. Good for your mental health
San Francisco State University has published research to indicate that “simply choosing to alter body posture to a more upright position can improve mood and energy levels.” The reality is that your posture has measurable effects on your optimism, energy, and even mood. Your posture affects your state of mind, automatically. When you’re depressed, your shoulders automatically slump while when you’re relaxed or feeling happy, your posture tends to be upright and open. By changing your posture to reflect the state of mind you want, you can actually make it happen.
4. Relief back pain
Proper posture helps to keep your bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles properly aligned, which can prevent and relieve your back pain. Plus, over time, good posture can change the anatomical characteristics of your spine, leading to less strain and more open vessels and nerves.
5. Look more confident
Slumped shoulders give you the appearance of a lack of confidence. A swayed back can make it look like you’re a few pounds heavier. And a bowed neck makes you look frumpy. Models, movie stars, and famous politicians all maintain good posture because they understand that it portrays power and confidence while also presenting your body to its best advantage. Plus, good posture can add an inch or more to your height.
6. Helps with Circulation and Digestion
How you look on the outside is a reflection of what’s inside. This is especially true when it comes to your digestive system. Good posture helps to keep your internal organs, particularly those within your abdomen, in their natural position without undue compression. When you slouch, you can interfere with the normal flow and function of your gastrointestinal system. In fact, proper posture can help relieve such issues as acid reflux, constipation, and hernias.
7. Optimal for muscle health
Another way that proper posture provides pain relief is through strengthening your muscles. Improper posture places strain on already sensitized muscles and soft tissues. By sitting and standing correctly, you’ll strengthen your core, buttock muscles, and back extensions while relieving unnecessary tension. The reality is that good posture distributes the force of gravity evenly throughout your muscles, so no one structure is over-stressed.