"Why is good posture important?"
Posture isn't just about looking good. According to the January 1994 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management, poor posture is shown to be associated with a number of chronic conditions including low back pain, headaches, and a host of stress-related illnesses. It can also affect blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity. In addition, the Mayo Clinic (2000) suggests long-term forward posture leads to, "long term muscle strain, disc herniations andpinched nerves."
"Why does posture often deteriorate with age?"
Among the many reasons for deterioration of posture are certain things that we can control such as muscle tension and/or weakness, stress and habit, and correction of poor posture is key to stopping and/or reversing the associated degenerative affects. The process takes time and a concerted effort, but it is possible to do in most cases. Poor postural habits are often related to the type of work we do (e.g., working over a computer, styling hair, working on an assembly line, etc.).
"What does good
posture feel like?"
When good posture is in place the head floats over the shoulders, ear lobes over the shoulders. The shoulders are over the hips, hips over the knees and the knees are over the ankles. The feet should also be flat on the floor, toes forward, when standing or walking. Shoe soles are a good indication of the latter. Evenly worn soles are a good sign whereas wearing unevenly suggests an imbalance in postural alignment. A good posture check is the "puppet on a string" trick. Sit on a chair or bench in a normal, relaxed position and think of yourself like a puppet on a string. The string is attached to the ceiling and it is beginning to pull your head up, lengthening your neck and your spine. As you wiggle in your chair you can feel the bony processes under your bottom. That is what good posture should feel like.
"How is good posture achieved?"
The first step is to create an awareness of what it feels like using a technique like the one described above. To start, do this 10 times a day and hold for 5 seconds. This is in an effort to begin creating a new habit of sitting tall. Take that same principle to a standing position being sure not to lock the knees and/or pop the ribcage forward. Knees are soft and the ribcage is slightly pulled down so that the abdominals are engaged. Self-checks throughout the day can make all the difference in the world; set your watch to beep on the hour. When the beep sounds, check the posture and make necessary corrections with a goal for maintaining good posture throughout the day.
Good posture is held longer-and-longer with each beep. Read on for a few more posture-related tips:
If poor posture has become a habit, it will feel awkward at first. The good news is that the more you do it, the better it begins to feel in more ways than one!
Until next time, be healthy, be happy!