Straighten Up: The Importance of Good Posture
Good posture when sitting and walking not only says a lot about your image, but it can also help determine the health of your back. Bad habits like slouching, everyday lifestyle activities like sitting at a desk or carrying a heavy bag, poor nutrition, and changes in weight can all lead to bad posture over time. Not only can poor posture make you look sick, tired or older than your actual age, but it can also lead to a variety of health concerns, from long-term pain and headaches, to injuries, loss of energy, depression and anxiety. Good posture promotes health by keeping bones and joints in alignment so muscles are properly used, decreasing wear and tear on joints, decreasing ligament stress, keeping the spine strong, preventing fatigue, strain and overuse, and promoting an overall confident appearance. A healthy back has three natural curves, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, good posture helps maintain: the inward curve at the neck, (known as the cervical curve), the outward curve at the back (also called the thoracic curve) and the inward curve at the lower back (or lumbar curve). To achieve good seated posture, the Cleveland Clinic recommends sitting with your back straight and shoulders back with the buttocks touching the back of the chair. While sitting, you should be able to feel all three back curves while distributing body weight evenly on both hips with knees bent at a right angle. Keep feet flat on the floor and avoid crossing your legs or sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes. The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for good standing posture: pull your shoulders back and keep them relaxed by pulling in the abdomen and keeping the feet your hips’ distance apart. Balance your weight evenly on both feet, relax the knees and avoid tilting your head to the front, back or side. When it comes to walking, stand tall and keep your head up and eyes level and chin parallel to the ground. Fully extend your leg as you step; keep your arms slightly bent at the waist and swing them comfortably. You can learn to recognize the symptoms of poor posture and take corrective measures. Common symptoms include recurring headaches; pain in the eye sockets; and jaw, muscle spasms in the neck, shoulders, arms and legs; painful or snapping hip joints, and achy extremities. To prevent poor posture or fix it in the early stages, focus on strengthening your core. The American College of Sports Medicine encourages adding core and strength training to a fitness program at least twice per week. Focus on working the rectus abdominis, the wide muscles that run vertically down the stomach; the obliques that run diagonally around the waist; the transverse abdominis that wrap around the waist, and the erector spinae, the back muscles that extend the length of the spine. Choose strengthening exercises that target these muscles. (For example, the plank pose, common in yoga and Pilates, works the obliques and tranverse abdominis.) Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, or if you experience any pain.
Source: Complete Nutrition