Why It’s Important To Pay Attention to Your Posture
We all do it. We slouch at the dinner table, we lay on our favorite sides watching TV, and we carry our bags on one shoulder. These habits of standing out of proper anatomical alignment have become a comfortable position for us to hold our bodies in.
When people are on the go or pre-occupied, posture is probably the last thing on their minds. Getting from point A to point B is the goal, no matter how we contort our bodies or sling our backpacks.
But as we continue to carry ourselves around in unfavorable manners, we slowly succumb our bodies to alignment issues that can go unnoticed until it’s too late. Additionally, we are unintentionally exuding attitudes to our surroundings that may lead them to perceive something we didn’t mean to project.
How Does It Happen?
It can sometimes be pretty obvious to note where body alignment issues can come from, but sometimes our lifestyles and professions can cause poor posture. Workers in construction have to continuously lift heavy objects, and without proper lifting technique, they run the risk of throwing out their back. Employees working at a desk job for 8 hours can easily be tempted to slouch near the end of the day due to tiredness and fatigue, leaving them completely rounded in the shoulders. Even doing something as simple as wearing heels or writing with your left hand or sleeping on your stomach can pull your alignment out of whack.
What Anatomically Happens
When we slouch, we’re bringing our body into spinal flexion, causing an undesirable frontal curvature in the thoracic spine called Kyphosis. The University of Maryland reports that maintaining a rounded back is continued for an extensive amount of time, this could lead to various problems including back pain, trouble breathing, and possible damage to the spinal cord due to compressed nerves.
When we stand with our bellies out, this is termed lordosis, also known as “swayed back.” This leaves individuals with an unengaged core, and an altered center of gravity, none of which are favorable to the health of our spine. Even standing on one foot more than the other can shift our hip alignment, resulting in uneven hips. From my years of training in dancing and gymnastics, I favored my right leg and therefore developed a left lateral pelvic tilt (aka a longer right leg), a condition that now causes me severe lower back pain and requires lots of therapy and trips to the chiropractor, all at the age of 21.
Aside from all the anatomical changes that can occur with bad posture, it can also affect our mental health as well. Our hunched shoulders take a toll on how we gauge our self-confidence and over-all happiness. If you’ve ever been in a situation in which you’ve felt uncomfortable or less-than-thrilled, you’re body language is probably showing that to the people around you.
A study at the San Francisco State University actually conducted a study about posture that showed increased levels of depression and decreased energy levels in the observed group of people instructed to slouch. Not only can you hunch your way into physical pain, but you can also slouch your way into a bad mood.
We Must Pay Attention
So many benefits can arise from simply pulling our shoulders back and engaging our abdominals. Not only will we prevent ourselves from developing future back problems or walking ourselves right into a wheelchair, we can also improve our cognition and make ourselves feel happier.
The SFSU study reported heightened levels of energy when instructing their test subjects to skip. Imagine if we all skipped to work or class. Besides the hysterical image, we’d all probably be happier individuals upon arrival as opposed to the normal somberness we tend to portray in our 8am classes or our early shifts.
How We Can Improve Our Posture
While the importance of good posture overrides the convenience of standing/moving however we’d like, it can still be difficult to break these habits. The American Chiropractic Association provides many simple tips to improve sitting and standing postures like: avoiding crossed legs when seated, keeping a slight bend in your knees when standing, and sleeping with a pillow in between your legs. Keeping a keen eye on how you carry yourself throughout your life and implementing little changes to your normal stance can help prevent future health problems and promote a positive state of mind.