Thankfully, the topic of posture is starting to make headway across the health and fitness industry. The considerations to the importance of posture is brought to light as we are increasingly becoming slumped over our work desks, hunching over as we scroll Instagram and become more sedentary through work and leisure activities such as gaming etc. Yes, poor posture looks bad, however, there are so many more health, strength and fitness-related reasons as to why one should be focused on posture improvement.
Why Posture Matters
Generally, we tend to only focus on the aesthetic aspects of bad posture; it makes us look less confident, sad, smaller etc. However, it is the health aspects of bad posture that should not be ignored. Slouching can lead to sore, degraded joints, less mobility, less muscle contraction and growth, spinal and neck injuries and so on.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper…
1. Posture is essential for proper alignment
The human body was designed to maintain a particular alignment in order to function properly. When the body is in this proper alignment, our skeletal system is supported by muscles that are properly formed in order to hold everything neatly in place. When our posture moves out of alignment, with slouching, hip socket immobility, etc., our muscles are forced to compensate for this “new” position. When this happens, our muscles and also organs (think digestive system) can be restricted or strained from weight or tension that they aren’t designed to support. This can lead to digestive issues, stomach distension, immobility, injury and so much more. Let’s use our lower back as an example: when your shoulders and neck slouch forward, your lower back muscles strain and stretch forward, eventually overlengthening and weakening as a result of the strain required to hold your upper back and neck without success. However, if you were to sit up straight, your lower back muscles wouldn’t be under strain and would be in their proper position, where they could hold your entire trunk in place without stretching unnaturally.
2. Protects the joints, muscles, and ligaments
When standing or sitting with correct posture, our skeletal system and muscles are aligned in a way that keeps excess weight and stress off of our ligaments and joints. On the other hand, when we are slouching, rounding our shoulders, or even walking with our hips out of alignment, we can put excess stress and friction on our joints, leading to pain and inflammation.
This can be seen in a lot of people who run and jog: if your hips are not aligned correctly, it can cause a misalignment of your hip joints, which then moves your knee joints out of alignment, which then moves further down the line to ankles and feet. Even if you don’t feel this right away as you’re walking or moving through life day-to-day, the friction on your ligaments and joints from these activities will start to take its toll and eventually cause pain. This inflammation on the joints often causes people to take an anti-inflammatory supplement so they can continue to work or train, when in actual fact, the solution to this problem may be as simple as fixing posture and alignment.
3. Prevents pain
As discussed above, repeatedly moving in poor posture patterns or even undergoing weight training when you’re out of alignment can take a serious toll on your muscles and joints. Training when you are out of alignment can lead to pinched nerves, spinal strains and injuries, disk slips, valgus knees, the rolling of the ankles and so much more as moving with weight when your spine is out of alignment can put a lot of pressure on the wrong areas of your skeletal system.
4. The key to confidence
There is a term called “posturing”, essentially this is the art of confidence through proper posture and the perception it gives about yourself to those around you. Did you know that improving your posture not only gives you a confidence boost by improving how you look, but just the act of standing up straight can stimulate hormones in your body that boost mood, it also improves creativity and concentration as well!
5. Muscular stamina
When your muscles can’t be lengthened, contracted or mobilized properly due to being blocked by way of immobility and posture, they can fatigue quicker during training. A misaligned skeletal system can stretch and restrict your muscles in a way that doesn’t allow them to move through their full range of motion and doesn’t allow them to strengthen fully, causing aesthetic imbalances, muscular weakness, and poor muscle growth.
What can you do to improve stamina?
Aside from consciously working on posture whilst sitting, standing and walking you may want to look at implementing some regular body alignment practices such as Pilates, mobility movement, physio, and chiropractic work. In addition, below are 3 incredible exercises that will help strengthen your posterior chain which in turn will aid in proper posture:
1. DB/ KB/ BB Dead - Row
This exercise works your entire posterior chain, the group of muscles along your back responsible for holding your spine in correct alignment.
2. Farmers Carry
This exercise trains your body to maintain strict alignment with weight so that when you don’t have weight, it will naturally and easily carry the correct posture.
Scapula pull-ups focus on strengthening your scapula, which helps pull your shoulders back and down into correct alignment.
In addition to exercising these tips, looking into the quality of your mattress and desk chairs can make a huge improvement to your posture.Proper posture, like anything, can be learned and re-learned, implement some of the above movements into your gym routine and focus on correcting posture each time you notice yourself slouching. In time, with practice, you will replace poor posture with good posture.