How is your posture? Do you stand straight and tall, in a manner that would make your mother proud? Do you tend to hunch or slump forward, especially at the end of a long day? If your posture is less-than-perfect, it is important to know that over time, poor posture can negatively impact your health.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to improve your posture, and doing so can contribute to better health, boost energy levels, and even make you look trimmer. Here’s a closer look at poor posture, good posture, and how both can affect your future.
The Impact of Poor Posture
When your posture is poor, it can put stress on muscles and ligaments which may become tight or stretch past a comfortable degree. You may experience pain in your shoulders, back, neck or jaw as a result. Over time, poor posture can inhibit your lung function, decrease your flexibility, and affect your balance, which could put you at higher risk for falling. Poor posture can also affect your digestion and how easily your joints move.
In addition to the physical impact it can have on your body, poor posture can make you appear tired, disinterested, or depressed. These moods can impact how people respond to you at work, at home, and in other social situations.
Perfect Your Posture
How can you improve your posture and maintain it as you get older? First, be mindful of how you’re sitting and standing — good posture means that you support the three natural curves of the spine at the lower back, mid-back, and neck. Your head should be centered over your shoulders (not jutting forward or back), and your shoulders should be over your hips. Take a few seconds every hour or two to “check-in” with your body, pull the shoulders back and make sure you’re not slumping.
In addition to being mindful about your posture, the following can help you maintain proper position:
Exercise regularly. Physical activity can lower your risk of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Exercise can also help reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood overall. Cardiovascular activities such as walking, swimming, or biking can help you stay fit and decrease stress. You should also consider participating in strength training two to three times a week to maintain lean muscle mass and develop core muscles. Yoga, Pilates, and other mind-body exercises can help you listen to the body, heightening your awareness of posture.
Maintain healthy body weight. Yes, there is one more reason to avoid the post-menopausal weight gain that many women experience. Those extra pounds could put additional strain on your muscles and joints, exacerbating poor posture.
Skip the sky-high heels. Want to say goodbye to uncomfortable shoes? High heels are not only hard on your feet, they can alter balance and affect posture as well.
Check your ergonomics. In other words, pay attention to how you sit and stand. Whether you’re at work, in the kitchen, or doing activities such as watching TV or playing games on your smartphone, listen to your body. Make adjustments so that you’re not straining to reach a computer keyboard, for example, and try to maintain good posture during day-to-day activities.
It’s never too late to train your body to embrace better posture. If you can get in the habit of standing and sitting properly, you may feel more alert and focused. You may even look like you’ve lost a few pounds. With that kind of payoff, you’ll want to take the time to stand up straight.
Ian Feurtado is Fitness and Wellness Director for Metro Physical & Aquatic Therapy, Long Island’s premier physical therapy company. Feurtado has been with Metro for more than seven years and has helped thousands of patients with his specialized exercise programs
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