Why Posture is Important and How it Can Affect Your Health
Have you ever had that realization that you've been slouching or hunching over? We can usually catch ourselves while we are walking around with poor posture, whether it be at our desks at work, in line for our morning coffee, or even just while we are sitting at our desks. Even though we are aware of this, our bodies quickly revert to the position we feel most comfortable in.
Your posture can affect your life more than you might believe. If not corrected, bad posture can have an impact on every part of the body and cause long-term problems. Aches and pains in the back, neck, and/or shoulders are typically the first signs of bad posture. Other signs, though, could also appear that are connected to your posture but that you might not be aware of.
This article will explore what posture is, what can contribute to poor posture, the various ways it can affect your health, and why good posture is important.
What is posture?
Posture refers to the position you hold your body when sitting, standing, or lying down. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when moving (i.e., walking or running), while static posture refers to how you hold yourself when you are stationary (i.e., sitting or sleeping).
It is important to maintain good dynamic and static posture, which means your head should align with your shoulders, while your shoulders should be directly over your hips. With poor posture, this is often not the case, and although there is no such thing as “perfect posture,” maintaining this head/shoulders/hips alignment in a way that makes sense for your body is key.
Reasons for poor posture
Poor posture can occur for several reasons and is not always because of something we are consciously doing. For example, tight and inflexible muscles can decrease motion, tight chest muscles can pull you forward causing unalignment, and weak core muscles can lead to the lack of sturdiness you need between the upper and lower body. These reasons go beyond simply not sitting up in your chair, but as a result, poor posture can develop and cause major implications on your health.
Other contributing factors to poor posture include:
Decreased fitness levels
Feelings of emotional stress
Sitting too far away from the steering wheel while driving
The use of technology
The impacts of poor posture on your health
Head and neck pain are extremely common in those with poor posture. “Forward head posture” is a type of misalignment that causes the head to be positioned in a way that pushes your head forward and causes your ears to be in front of the midline of your body, rather than aligned. This can result in stiffness in your neck muscles and tendons, headaches (especially tension headaches), jaw tightness, musculoskeletal dysfunctions, and pain in nearby nerves.
“Tech neck” (also known as “text neck”) can also develop from being slouched over looking at a device. When you hold your head down and in a forward position, like many of us do when using a computer or mobile device, it can put weight on your neck and spine, which can lead to generalized pain and discomfort in this area, as well as neck spasms and/or a stiff neck.
Back pain is a more apparent symptom of poor posture, and it can cause a tight or stiff feeling in the spine or surrounding muscles. “Swayback” (also known as hyperlordosis) is a type of misalignment that causes your hips and pelvis to tilt forward, and it creates an inward curve in your lower back. This can develop from sitting for long periods of time, as the muscles in your back can become weak. As well, sitting while leaning forward can put stress on your back, as it can put pressure on your lumbar discs. Back pain can also cause poor sleep, due to the inability to fully relax or find a comfortable sleeping position.
Breathing difficulties is another concern that can develop from poor posture, largely due to rib cage and diaphragm restriction that can lead to a reduction in lung capacity and shortness of breath. A recent study found that those who position themselves in a slouched sitting position can develop a reduction in diaphragm muscle strength, which can cause feelings of shallow breathing.
Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms can also arise when you are hunched forward. Your internal organs are much more compressed than if you were standing or sitting straight. This kind of constriction can lead to abdominal GI upset and other conditions like acid reflux and heartburn.
Poor circulation can develop in several areas of the body from poor posture, especially for those that sit for long periods. Proper circulation means there is healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout your body. However, poor posture can hinder this from occurring due to tight muscles causing issues like the constriction of blood vessels. This can lead to circulatory issues and conditions, such as varicose veins, high blood pressure, vein thrombosis, etc.
Why is good posture important?
Other than preventing some of the issues we have outlined above, maintaining good posture is important for overall good health. By sitting, standing, or laying in a correct position that demonstrates proper alignment, you can put less strain and tension on your muscles and ligaments. It can also help keep your bones and joints optimal and decrease aches and pains.
When you are in a slouched position, your body needs to work harder to be in that position, which can create more fatigue in the body. This can lead to lower energy, motivation, and concentration levels, as well as an overall tired and weighted feeling that can impact other areas of your life. However, when you practice good posture, you can ensure that your muscles are being used effectively and that you are preventing muscle fatigue. This is important at any stage in life, but especially as we get older.
If you find your body exhibits some of the physical complications caused by poor posture, it is never too late to take action. Some of the ways you can start practicing good posture is by stretching, walking around after sitting for long periods, keeping your back straight while sitting to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward, and trying to keep your head, shoulders, and hips as centred as possible.