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Reap healthy benefits by improving your posture

Maddi Ginsberg

Good posture is one of those things we all know we “should” have, but don’t bother to put effort into. Posture may not seem that important but it can have an affect on the rest of your life. Don’t know where to start? We made this guide to explain how bad posture affects your body and to help fix some of the most common posture issues.

What are the effects of poor posture?

Continuous bad posture can lead to extra fatigue, due to your muscles overcompensating for your position choices. Slouching bends the spine, which can affect circulation, which can in turn lead to deterioration of vertebrae. Sitting for more than 6 hours a day can increase your risk of heart disease by over 60% and can cut off 7 years of life.  Sitting can also put you at risk for weight gain by affecting your blood sugar. If poor seated posture is added onto extensive sitting, chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain is likely to follow.

What causes bad posture?

Bad posture might be associated with laziness and constant sitting, but that isn’t always the case. Weight, genetics, shoe structure, self esteem, injuries, and stress can all contribute to poor posture. While some of these causes are out of your control, there are always steps you can take to improve your posture, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.

Seated posture corrections

Your chair should have good low back support and your desk/table should be at the same height as your elbows. Keep your back relaxed but not slouched. Your neck should be in a neutral, straight position, not tilted up or down. Your back doesn’t need to be pin-straight, which can cause the spine to curve in. Make sure your navel is drawn in towards your spine and your forearms are supported (if you’re using a desk for work). If you’re on a computer, follow the 20/20/20 rule: take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet (or more) away from your computer.                                                                             

Standing posture corrections

While standing, many people either round their upper back or curver their lower spine outward. The “hunchback” look is often a result of fatigue and/or muscle imbalances, while lordosis (inner curvature of the lower spine) occurs to many women after pregnancy or because of high heels. As with all posture positions, a strong core and back will help maintain better positioning without too much effort. To fix either position, draw your shoulders and neck back to a neutral position. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your legs straight (but don’t tense your knees). Try not to lean on one leg too much, as that can cause undue stress to your hips. Exercises like planks will help strengthen your core, while poses to strengthen your hip flexors will help keep your lower spine in line.

Benefits of good posture

Posture is a key element of body language, which is proven to affect how we feel. Sitting or standing up straighter is likely to make you feel more confident and empowered. This confidence can in turn positively affect our decision making (watch this video for more on body language).  Correct posture (and sufficient movement throughout the day) burns more calories and helps blood flow normally. Standing or sitting properly can make you appear thinner because it pulls everything upward, giving a slimmer look to the body. Instituting these practices will also help build muscle in your core and back, which can help with weight loss.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all these corrections, don’t worry! It may feel difficult at first but, as with weight loss, proper posture will get easier as it becomes more ingrained as a habit. Remember to try to keep every body part as neutral as possible, and stand up every 20-30 minutes if you’re at a desk all day. Use these little breaks to check to see how your body is feeling and consider if you need to pay more attention to your positioning. Once you institute these practices, pay attention to see if you feel any different. Maybe better posture will give you confidence to try out a new workout class or cook a new, healthy meal. Good luck!

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