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The Real Benefits of Improving Your Posture
Health and beauty
April 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Why good posture is the the best youth-boosting move

Good posture is the fastest anti-ageing trick we know. It's for free, it's fairly easy to do and can take years off you!

It’s no secret that modern-day living encourages bad posture as we hunch over desks, lounge on sofas and are constantly distracted by phones in our hands or down on the table in front of us. Hunched shoulders and tight chest (pectoral) muscles will make you look shorter and older, but by standing up straight with your shoulders back, not only will your body perform better but you will look younger and leaner too.

Not only can bad posture habits affect our whole body, and from an early age, as we age gravity pulls us down and forward naturally changing our centre of gravity, so we need to be aware and work on our posture before it’s too late.

Bad posture makes everything more challenging, from simple movements to your balance, and even breathing as the chest becomes compressed. And importantly, the longer we let our posture deteriorate the harder it is to rectify as connective tissue starts to loose flexibility and over time will thicken making it harder to rehabilitate.

‘Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you
are fit and exercise regularly you can cancel
out the effects of sitting for long periods’

So what is good posture? The spine has natural curves so the aim, rather than being ramrod straight which can look odd, is to maintain the spine’s natural position. Think of your body as stacking blocks. Your ears should be over your shoulders which should be directly above your hips. Hips should be over knees (with your bum tucked in) and knees should be over your ankles. Sounds simple. But take a look in the mirror to see just how good your posture actually is. It’s easy to think, just because it feels OK, that it looks OK. Once you check and correct your posture, if anything was out of line the supporting muscles will start to ache fairly quickly.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that if you are fit and exercise regularly you can cancel out the effects of sitting for long periods. Research shows that sitting at a desk, or anywhere for long periods actually inhibits your exercise performance and you can end up reinforcing bad posture habits as hip flexors automatically tighten and glutes weaken so if you go for a run after a day at work it’s likely that these big stabilising muscles won’t work.

Today’s lifestyle naturally lends itself towards an anterior chain-dominant body which includes all the muscles down the front of your body, and it’s a fact that many of the most popular forms of exercise like running, cycling, boxing, and even walking continue to strengthen the anterior muscles so it’s worth switching up your regular exercise routine and introducing swimming, pilates and even horse riding which all work on your core muscles if you know you have a problem with your posture.

How to Check Your Posture

It’s an easy thing to do and should be done regularly.

• Stand with your heels against the wall. Your tailbone, shoulder blades and the back of your head (your posterior chain) should all be in contact with the wall.
• Lift your arms over your head so the back of your hands touch the wall too, keeping your posterior chain glued to the wall.

Once you are aligned you will find your shoulders drop and your posture changes, you will be able to breathe more easily, and you will feel taller and lighter too.

Finding it hard? You need to stretch regularly to help muscles realign and it’s simply a matter of re-education and habit. As you walk pay attention to your posture and keep your shoulders down and back, away from your ears. Tuck your pelvis under which will help to keep your shoulders back. Imagine you have a piece of string running down your core from the top of your head to heels which will keep you in the correct position.

Here are three easy stretches to do anywhere, anytime.

Lie down with your legs stretched and put your arms over your head. Push your heels and hands away and hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat several times a day.

Try a straight leg roll down stretch to help hamstrings and hip flexors. Put your hands on your hips and drop your chin to your chest. Looking down, curl your spine over bending from the waist. Keeping knees soft but legs straight. Stay in the stretch for as long as you can before uncurling.

Stretch your chest muscles (you will not believe how tight they really are when you start). With your arm at shoulder height put your palm onto the wall and press into it as you turn your upper body away until you feel a stretch across your chest and shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times before switching arms.

Sitting Pretty

Research says we spend something like 65 or more hours a week sitting or slumped on the sofa, and that equates to three days out of seven a week which is a real problem for your posture. Lockdown has also seen a significant increase in people seeking help for back pain and that is partly due to home working without a decent desk or chair.

We all know the importance of investing in a good chair and ensuring your desk and computer are at the correct height but it is also important to check your sitting posture. Be conscious of your position at all times and sit upright and back in the chair, adding a cushion for extra lumbar support if it’s more comfortable. Keep your thighs at right angles to your body and feet flat on the floor (no crossing the legs). Your head should be straight and not too far forward which puts a strain on your neck and shoulders.

If you can, move every 15 to 20 minutes, and get up at least once an hour for five minutes to help posture and stop stiffness.

Sleeping Right

If you think once you are in bed your posture takes care of itself then think again. Too many pillows or sleeping in the wrong position will compound posture problems.

Don’t sleep on your front as that impacts the lower back as you will inflex the spine. If you sleep on your back do not use a big pile of pillows which will push your head forward and increase the pressure on your neck. Ideally, sleep on your side with one pillow supporting your head (not your shoulder). Anyone with a bad back might find a pillow tucked between their knees will help relieve back pain and take some pressure off the spine.

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