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Good Posture Can Make a Positive Impact on Your Health

By Martha Michael

Good Posture

From the time you were first admonished by your mother (or grandmother, typically) to stop slouching, you’ve known it was a good idea no matter how much you may have resented it. Posture is defined as our body’s position when we stand, sit or lie down. Our bodies are correctly aligned when our muscle tension holds us upright against gravity, which literally keeps us from hunching over or even falling to the ground.

Good posture makes us look strong, confident, and powerful. It’s also healthy.

Now, sit up straight.

The Problems With Poor Posture

An article in Consumer Reports says that developing better posture results in more than just good looks. When posture improves, so does quality of life.

“Good posture enables us to breathe better and function better,” says Karen DeChello, OTD, a clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at Stony Brook University in New York. “Slouching prevents your diaphragm from working efficiently to expand your chest cavity and lungs. And it can affect your breathing capacity even if you don’t have a respiratory condition.”

By contrast, poor alignment such as slouching can cause loss of breath and make you tire easily, even while conducting everyday tasks from walking up stairs to gardening. It also raises your risk of falling.

People with certain conditions have a hard time maintaining good posture. From 20-40 percent of adults have hyperkyphosis, a condition resulting in a curvature of the upper back. Similar changes occur with age.

Individuals with spinal stenosis also have challenges with obtaining proper alignment. It is caused by narrowing space between the vertebrae, which causes pain when you attempt to stand upright.

Strategies for Improved Posture

Consumer Reports offers a list of suggested positions when seated or standing to contribute to better posture.

Kevin Weaver, DPT, a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy at New York University, suggests some simple moves that you can do at home. Start by standing upright against a wall to straighten the alignment of your back. You can also spend a few minutes lying on your stomach to stretch your spine. He also suggests crunches, with consent from your healthcare professional, of course.

Exercises that are designed to strengthen your core muscles that support your spine result in a straighter carriage. It may take time to see results.

To maintain good posture we need our hamstrings and large back muscles to be strong, says the website for the American Chiropractic Association, or ACA. These muscle groups help you maintain balance and they work against gravity, which naturally forces your body downward.

Strong muscles and greater flexibility promote proper alignment of bones and joints, which puts less strain on your body. Better alignment lowers the chance you wear down joint surfaces and develop disorders resulting from overuse such as degenerative arthritis. It also minimizes your chance of injury and reduces muscle fatigue.

If you notice a decrease in your range of motion or you’re experiencing lower back or neck pain, it may be the result of poor posture. Manual manipulation from your chiropractor may be the most beneficial treatment before you develop arthritis or joint problems.

Some of the most common causes of postural changes are:

  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • High-heeled shoes
  • Improper work environment

Your ability to stand tall is also affected by your position when you lie down, the ACA website says. The article includes tips from chiropractic experts for improving your posture when you go to sleep.

Beginning with the basics, the mattress you use should fit your own specifications for maximum comfort. Some consumers report less back pain when using a soft mattress, but a firm mattress is often recommended. Sleep on your side or back, as lying on your stomach can promote back pain. If you choose to lie on your back, it’s helpful to sleep with a pillow between your knees.

The best thing you can do for your posture is to remain aware of your stance while sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. That way, you can make corrections when needed. Being upstanding may be your goal when it comes to your social stature or career goals, but literally being a standup guy or gal has too many health benefits to ignore.

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