Two women walk into a room. Both are exquisitely dressed with just the right amount of make-up and perfect updos. However, one woman enters the room with her shoulders slumped and her eyes downcast. The next woman walks in, head held high, shoulders back with a big smile for anyone who glances her way. Which woman attracts the most attention? Who will engage the most people? People are attracted to self-confidence and nothing says self-confidence like good posture. Fortunately, there’s help for our first lackluster lady. Bad posture is a habit and like any nasty habit, it can be reversed. It just takes a little time and a little knowledge.
How you carry yourself isn’t just about how you look on the outside. It also has amazing benefits for your insides. Good posture is “the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity,” according to the American Chiropractic Association. “Without posture and the muscles that control it, we would simply fall to the ground.” Maintaining good posture keeps your spine healthy, improves circulation and digestion, and makes breathing easier. The fact that it makes you look slimmer and younger is just a happy bonus.
If bad posture makes us feel so awful, why do we do it? Our mothers, teachers, and coaches have told us for years to “Stand up straight.” So why do we still continue to slouch? Some of us lack the self-confidence to stand tall. Instead, we scrunch our shoulders and hope no one notices us. For others it’s strictly a physical reason. Hours spent slumped over computers are part of the problem. Obesity, pregnancy, high heels, and weak core muscles also encourage tipping forward, keeping us off balance and contributing to weak posture.
However, perfect posture can be achieved. Your first step is to identify how good posture feels. To do that, stand against a wall with your head, shoulder blades, and bottom touching the wall and your feet just a few inches away from it. There should be an inch of space between the small of your back and the wall. “That means when you’re standing, your ears should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your knees and ankles,” according to an article in Yoga Journal. “When any body part falls out of the vertical line, the adjacent support muscles will feel the strain.”
Now that you’re aware of how it feels, let’s discuss some ways to easily maintain that perfect posture. Here are some exercises and strategies for at home and at work.
Flexibility and Balance
Yoga postures, when done correctly, support the natural curves of a healthy spine, leaving us feeling taller and healthier when we finish. Yoga also helps with balance and alignment.
Planks, back, leg, and arm extensions, and crunches challenge and strengthen the entire body. The pelvic floor exercises included in the Carin app are also great ways to strengthen your core and pelvic muscles. Balance out tight chest muscles with exercises focusing on strengthening the back like bent over rows, pull-ups, and lat pull-downs.
Weight Bearing Exercises
A brisk walk, a run, or a game of tennis are ideal exercises to increase bone mass. Any exercise that forces your body to bear its weight is good for your bones because the impact encourages bone building.
Make sure your desk and/or chair is at the right height for you. Consult an expert to make sure you sit properly. Stand up and walk away from your desk at least every 20 to 30 minutes because movement decreases the amount of stress on the spinal column.
Use props and tools, such as lumbar support pillows and seat wedges, to decrease stress on your spine while sitting. Posture enhancing shirts and sports bras are another option. These support proper posture and train your upper back and core muscles to become stronger. Put a pillow between your legs while you’re sleeping to maintain spinal alignment and don’t forget to sit correctly while driving.
Now that you know what to do, go look at a playground full of school children. Watch them line up and follow their teachers when it’s time to go inside. Their backs are strong and their heads are high. It’s proof that bad posture develops over time, becoming a habit. So stand up straight to feel good on the inside and look great on the outside.