In this series of Healthy Habits blog posts, we'll provide valuable insights into creating healthy habits that promote a healthy life, including aspects of physical fitness, mental well-being, and emotional balance. Whether you're a beginner or already have some experience with healthy living, this series will provide the tools and inspiration you need to create lasting change in your life.
You've probably heard your mother say it a million times: "Stand up straight!" It turns out she was on to something. You may not think about it often, but the way you carry yourself can have a big impact on your overall health. From your spine to your joints and muscles and even your respiratory and digestive system–everything is connected, and there are a number of conditions that can be aggravated by poor posture.
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your posture and protect your health. Here's everything you need to know about why good posture is essential and 6 tips for improving yours.
What is considered “good” posture?
Good posture is the proper alignment of your body's bones when standing, sitting, or lying down. When in proper alignment, all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons are able to work together efficiently. Good posture not only enhances physical appearance but also promotes proper breathing, prevents muscle imbalances, and reduces the risk of pain and injuries.
You probably know good posture when you see it. The head is held upright and aligned with the spine, the shoulders are relaxed and pulled back slightly, and the chest is open. The back maintains a gentle, natural curve, and the abdominal muscles are lightly engaged. Additionally, the hips are centered and level, and the feet are planted firmly on the ground.
Why is good posture important?
Maintaining good posture has a number of benefits for your overall health. First, it helps prevent back pain by ensuring that your spine is in proper alignment. Additionally, good posture aids in digestion and breathing by keeping the organs in their proper place. Good posture also helps improve your mood and decrease fatigue by increasing circulation and allowing your muscles to work more efficiently. Lastly, good posture simply helps you look better! While it may not be the number one reason to work on your slouching, improving your posture is a really simple way to improve your day-to-day appearance, making you appear slimmer, taller, and more confident.
6 ways to improve your posture
1. The dreaded text neck
Staring at your phone all day isn't just ruining your mental health–it's ruining your posture too! Text neck is what happens when we excessively repeat the motion of sticking our heads forward and down to look down at our devices. When we do this repeatedly over extended periods of time, it can often lead to neck pain, headaches, and poor posture.
Living in a digital world can make text neck hard to avoid. The best way to keep text neck at bay is to take phone breaks every 20 minutes or so and move your head and neck around slowly to give it a nice stretch. If you can, try to make a conscious effort to hold your head up high and keep your shoulders back when using electronic devices, especially if you sit at a computer all day for work.
2. These boots weren't made for walkin'
They may be the perfect addition to your favorite outfit, but if your shoes have a high heel, your spine is not happy about it. Regularly wearing high-heeled footwear can cause misalignment in the spine by forcing the base of your spine forward and causing over-arch in your back. This misalignment puts a lot of extra pressure on your backbone and can cause back pain and poor posture. We're not saying you can't occasionally throw on a pair of pumps for a night out, but for the day-to-day, ditch the stilettos and stick with a flat or low, chunky heel.
3. Core competency
Exercising your core muscles is one of the best things you can do to maintain good posture; plus, a strong core comes with a myriad of other benefits for your body, like improving balance and stability. And don't worry–you don't need six-pack abs to give your spine the support it needs. Even simple, low-impact core exercises like hip lifts and planks can build strong, supporting muscles that prevent back pain and poor posture.
Consider trying one of our core-strengthening group exercise classes at Western, like TRX, Strength, Pumped Up Strength, Barre, or Rowing–all classes that will keep your core engaged. If you’re looking for some additional ways to strengthen your core, talk to a Western personal trainer. They can put together the perfect custom workout for whatever your goals are.
4. Pillow talk
If you need a rest from all those core-strengthening exercises, try improving your posture while you sleep! Sleeping on the wrong type of pillow can cause strain on the neck and back and keep you slouching throughout the day. Something as simple as finding the right pillow for your sleep position can help fix misalignment in the spine and prevent poor posture and back pain. If you sleep on your side, choose a firm pillow; if you sleep on your stomach, choose a softer pillow; if you sleep on your back, choose a medium-firm pillow. Don't forget about the mattress either. Firmer is better, as it helps support your spine's natural shape.
5. Embrace ergonomics
Sometimes we just can't escape our desks. If you're stuck in a seat all day, consider investing in ergonomic furniture and accessories to make your office a little more spine-friendly. Start with an ergonomic office chair that has adjustable seat height, backrest, and armrests and good lumbar support. Get a little extra ergonomic support by adding a footrest or lumbar back support to the setup. Looking to go the extra ergonomic mile? Ditch the chair altogether and try a standing desk. Studies have shown that standing desk users saw an improvement of up to 32% in their back and neck pain after a few weeks. Even just standing in intervals of 15-30 minutes during your work day can significantly improve back pain and posture.
6. Heavy lifting done right
Practicing good posture while lifting weights is essential for maximizing effectiveness and minimizing the risk of injury. Start by maintaining a stable base by planting your feet shoulder-width apart and keeping your knees slightly bent. Engage your core muscles to provide stability and support to your spine. When lifting, focus on using your legs and hips to generate the force rather than relying solely on your back. Keep your back straight and avoid rounding or arching it. Ensure that your shoulders are pulled back and down, away from your ears, to maintain proper alignment.
It's also crucial to lift within your comfortable range and not exceed your capabilities, gradually increasing weight and intensity over time. Remember to breathe rhythmically and avoid holding your breath, as proper breathing supports overall stability and performance. By practicing good posture while lifting weights, you can effectively target specific muscle groups, minimize strain on your joints, and promote a safe and efficient workout.
If you’re struggling to master the right form in the weight room, talk to a Western personal trainer today! They can help make sure you’re practicing proper technique and minimize the risk of injury.
Stand (or sit) tall
Good posture is important for overall health because it helps minimize strain on your body while allowing it to move efficiently using less energy. Even small day-to-day adjustments go a long way in improving posture. Make an effort to stand tall with your shoulders back and down and your chin parallel to the ground. When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
Being aware of how you sit, stand, and move throughout the day can help you figure out where improvements need to be made in order to stop the slouch. Just by being aware of how you carry yourself throughout the day and making a few adjustments here and there, you can help prevent pain and other health problems down the road.