Remember when we were young and our parents would say “Don’t make that face, you’ll get stuck like that!” Well that might not be true about facial expressions but it is true about posture!
We are always told to sit up straight, stop looking down at our phones, open up our chests, and stand tall. We all know good posture is important, but do we understand how important it is long term? Posture affects our internal organs, breathing, balance, rib cage, spine, and jaw. It even affects our mood and confidence but most importantly it affects our future.
The truth is, long term poor posture actually does make you get stuck like that; it’s called functional scoliosis. Have you seen an elderly person walking around with a cane, looking at the ground, or cranking their necks up so they can see you? This isn’t a product of “getting old” this is due to long term poor posture.
What are some of the long term health risks of poor posture?
Our muscles and bones listen to us well, sometimes too well. If they are in one position for a long time, they think that’s where they are supposed to be, they become short and contracted and begin to hold your body in that position instead of you doing it for yourself. Functional scoliosis is reversible if it’s managed soon enough. Exercising and strengthening the muscles of the back, neck, chest, and core will help bring you back into a neutral position. Depending on the severity of the scoliosis you may need some help from a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist to help bring you back upright.
Once you’ve obtained functional scoliosis your center of balance has changed. This will affect your balance and motor skills.
Hunching forward reduces the amount of air our lungs can uptake, our ribs are contracted and we’re putting pressure on our diaphragm and lungs causing it to be more difficult to take a full deep breath. This can cause fatigue because your body isn’t getting the proper amount of oxygen needed to function at its full potential.
This is something we’ve all experienced from laying in the same position for too long, looking down at our phone or computers, or sitting for too long. Some pain you may feel from poor posture is back pain, joint pain, neck pain or tension headaches.
Poor posture may be caused by low self esteem. On the other hand, standing up tall is directly related to better confidence, being in a good mood, and increasing your stamina.
How did we get here? When did our poor posture start?
Forty-seven percent of people say they are concerned about their posture and its impact on their health, according to a 2019 national survey but how did it come about in the first place?
For many people, poor posture starts for a reason and it generally starts quite young. As previously discussed this can be due to lack of confidence; young girls that are heavy chested and embarrassed, young men who are taller than all their friends. It can also be related to playing video games at a young age or spending too much time looking down at your cell phone or iPad. We are seeing poor posture start at a younger age. Kids and toddlers are commonly seen inside on computers or tablets, sitting for long periods of time without getting up or moving around.
What can we do?
Keep Moving: The most important thing to remember is if you’re constantly moving, you can’t get stuck! Get up every 20 minutes and move around. Go for a small walk, and try working from standing. Give your body and your mind a break for a minute. Keep in mind that even if you have a standup desk you need to move around and switch positions. Standing for a long period of time can have the same effect as sitting.
Proper Ergonomics: Make sure that when you do have to sit down, you’re in a comfortable position. Good posture isn’t about sitting perfectly straight it’s about maintaining the natural curvatures of your spine. Your feet should be flat on the floor, low back supported, and your shoulders should be relaxed.
Stretch: No matter how hard we try, it is really difficult to have perfect posture all day. It’s important to learn a good stretch routine and make a habit of doing it 4-7 days per week. Even if it’s just 10 minutes.
At the end of the day, the best way to improve your posture is to be aware of your posture. It’s a habit, and it’s something that will always take work. You can enhance your future by changing the way you sit and stand, good posture will lead you to a healthier life. I bet you’re already sitting up straighter!