How Good Posture Promotes Optimal Health and Wellbeing

Growing up, did your mom ever tell you to sit up straight? Well it turns out, as is the case with most of the things Mom probably told you, she was right.

But don’t tell her we said that…

Recent studies are finding that sitting up straight with correct, aligned posture is one of the primary ways we can protect ourselves from chronic pain and debilitating disease as we get older. Studies have also shown that people with better posture are actually healthier and tend to live longer than their slouching counterparts.

And believe it or not (believe it), May is National Correct Posture Month. So this seemed to be the perfect time to promote good posture and showcase the numerous benefits that result from it.

Starting at the Surface: Appearances

It’s generally well understood the social effects of posture. Those of us who stand tall and upright with our shoulders slightly back appear more confident, energetic, youthful and independent, while the slouchers are generally regarded as lazy, ineffective and morose. Hence, Mom’s poignant advice.

But no matter the actual underlying truth, our demeanor and posture play an important role in social activities. What’s coming to be more understood nowadays is posture’s impact on overall health.

How Poor Posture Affects Health

Posture is the direct output of our skeletal framework, and it’s critical to our health that it be strong and flexible. All our daily activities, and our effectiveness in executing them, rely on proper posture.

“Throughout our life cycle, certain posture patterns seem to prevail,” says Sara Peckham, former long-time director of wellness at Judson and member of Judson’s board of directors. “Poor posture can be the result of certain structural changes that occur as we age, such as scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, or osteoporosis. However, a good deal of poor posture can be attributed to poor habits.”

The most common form of poor posture in all age groups is Forward Head Posture (FHP). Sara describes FHP as “when your head enters the room before the rest of your body!” FHP can result in neck and shoulder pain, restricted movement in the neck, and a forward curvature of the spine.

Unnatural curvature can create a host of other painful problems. Because it’s directly impacting the nervous system, this “hunch back” posture can compromise breathing capacity and lead to physical limitations in daily activities, sometimes in extreme fashion.

While adolescents experience rapid changes in their posture as a result of the growth phase, most of the posture issues adults encounter are the result of poor habits. Some bad habits to avoid as an older adult include rounding the shoulders forward, locking the knees, and cocking your hips to the side while standing. While a few instances of these behaviors likely produce little to no harm, when they become habitual over an extended period of time they can cause chronic effects in your posture.

Negative Health Effects of Poor Posture:

  • Increased incidence of headaches/migraines
  • Unnatural forward curvature of spine
  • Jaw pain
  • Nerve constriction
  • Arthritis
  • Impaired functioning of circulatory and digestive systems
  • Spinal subluxations
  • Difficulty breathing due to lung and diaphragm constriction

Defining Good Posture

So now that we understand bad posture, how do we define good posture? To that we turn, once again, to Sara Peckham.

“Good Posture equals B.A.M.!” says Peckham. “Balance, Alignment and Motion. This is not the same ‘BAM’ we all remember with Chef Emeril LaGasse, but, it does share some of the same ideas – a specific set of ingredients that result in a positive feeling.”

Good posture means (from a side view): Head in line with shoulder; chin level; ear lobes in line with shoulder; shoulder in line with hip; hip in line with knee; knee in line with ankle. It is, in essence, a plumb line.

How to Fix Bad Posture

“The good news is that many of these bad habits can be prevented,” says Peckham. “A regular routine of strengthening and stretching the appropriate core muscles can lead to a healthier you and more energy and vitality.”

Here are some of the best ways to remedy bad posture over time:

  • First, check yourself in a mirror and possibly have a friend or family member take pictures from the side and back so you can examine your posture and determine your weak points.
  • Engage in core strengthening exercises regularly.
  • Walk thirty minutes a day three times a week. Motion is lotion and movement is life.
  • See a craniosacral therapist to free the soft tissue around the spinal cord, releasing compression and enhancing the functionality of the nervous system.
  • See your chiropractor – they specialize in fixing spinal subluxations and can expedite your re-alignment and path back to good posture.

Couple your movement back toward good posture with regular exercise, healthy nutrition and preventative wellness practices, and you’re setting the stage for a more vibrant, healthier you!

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