Correct Posture Month encourages people to think about how posture can affect their overall health. Posture refers to the position a person's body is in whilst they are sitting or standing.
Sedentary activities such as sitting, reading, playing video games, using a computer sedentary activities and more physical activities like gardening, bending or lifting objects, are often performed with poor posture.
Poor posture can negatively impact a persons health. Back problems are an obvious result of poor posture with back pain being the most common problem. Side effects from medicines used to control back pain can have a huge impact on a persons physical and mental well being.
Poor posture can affect our health in other ways too. For example, slouching can give rise to jaw pain and headache. Poor posture places more strain on the muscles and joints and can lead to arthritis. Poor posture can also affect breathing, and impair both the circulatory and digestive systems.
A popular method of making a person aware of the importance of good posture is by using photography to capture images of a person whilst they are standing. Three images of a person are normally taken (front, side and back) which are then analyzed to see if the body is in alignment. Poor posture can be shown when the head is forward whilst the back is flat, or whilst the head is forward with shoulders rounded and a sway back.
In reality, it is very difficult to achieve perfect posture all the time. However there are healthcare professionals such as chiropractors who can assist us and there are simple exercises we can do which can help.
To improve posture when standing, keep your head held up, shoulders back and stomach tucked in.
When sitting, keep the legs bent 90 to 120 degrees perpendicular to the floor, buttocks touching the back of the chair, with weight evenly distributed over both hips. Feet should be flat on the floor. When sitting at a table or desk, have the arms and elbows rest on the surface taking the strain off the shoulders.
Avoid sitting for long periods of time; get up every 30 minutes. (Editors tip: whilst working at a desk, I have a glass of water available. Hydrating regularly helps with concentration; regular trips to the toilet help prevent sitting at a desk for a long time.).
Attention should also be paid to the position we are in when we are sleeping and lying down. Sleeping on your front can cause back and neck strain as can sleeping on your side with your knees bent up high near the chest.
A position which maintains the curve of the back is encouraged. This can be achieved by sleeping on your side with knees slightly bent, or by lying on your back and placing a pillow under knees. A lumbar support placed near the lower back can also help to make you become more comfortable.
Exercise such as yoga and Pilates can assist in balancing the muscles of the body. When the body's muscles are balanced, less energy is spent fighting gravity. As less strain is put on the skeletal system the negative effects of bad posture can be avoided or at least reduced.
Advantages of good posture.
- Extra height - up to 3 inches of our natural body height can be lost with poor posture. With good posture, we can regain our full height.
- Fatigue Prevention - good posture means the body is using muscles more efficiently, meaning less energy is being spent keeping the body in position.
- Prevention of strains, back ache and muscular pain.
- Prevention of wear on the joints and less strain on the body's ligaments.
- Prevention of secondary complications such as arthritis and impairment of circulatory and digestive systems.
- Improved appearance - people with good posture, carry themselves in a more natural manner and generally look better than those whose posture is out of balance.