Almost all of us have had stern words from our parents to correct our hunching or slouching postures during childhood. A good posture is not just aesthetically pleasing. Also, it is the most natural way to maintain a healthy spine and other joints. When you stand straight with shoulders thrown back and the spine is in its natural curvature, it speaks volumes about your personality and helps you create a pleasant impression. Our muscles help maintain a healthy posture even when we are not aware. Muscles of the shoulders, back, chest, and thighs play a vital role in maintaining a good posture. Healthy bones, muscles, and ligaments help overcome gravity to sit, lie, stand, and walk around gracefully.
A good posture has many benefits, such as:
- It minimizes the stress on the spinal joints, thus reducing the chances of injury and damage, especially to the spine.
- It helps maintain a healthy alignment of the various joints and bones, preventing back pain in later life.
- It minimizes the risk of muscle soreness and fatigue.
- It decreases the likelihood of joint wear and tear, thus reducing the risk of conditions (such as back sprains and neck pains).
- It prevents the spine from becoming stiff or fixed in an abnormal alignment.
- Lastly, a good posture exudes confidence and helps create positivity around you.
If you are struggling with a bad posture and want to correct it, you must first know why your posture is the way it is. A bad posture may be because of several reasons, such as:
- Poor muscle strength
- Poor joint flexibility
- Wrong choice of shoes (for example, high-heeled shoes)
- Poor working environment and working place
- Unhealthy sitting, standing, and walking habits
- Ignorance toward the importance of a good posture
A good posture does not require you to hold yourself stiff, it comes naturally without you trying too hard. We all have different body structures. A good posture does not aim to make us all look alike. It rather helps maintain natural and healthier alignments of our joints to optimize mobility and minimize wear and tear. To maintain a healthy posture, you must:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stay mindful of your posture while resting or doing activities
- Stay active
- Make sure your working stations are healthy for your posture (for example, if you work on a laptop, make sure it’s at a comfortable height)
- Wear comfortable shoes that don’t put stress on your joints
Here are some of the ways you can improve your posture in various positions:
- To maintain a healthy posture while sitting on a desk:
- Ensure that your feet rest on the floor or footrest.
- Take regular breaks to stand up and move around (once every 30 minutes would be great).
- Avoid crossing your legs.
- Ensure there is a small gap between the front edge of your chair and the back of your knees.
- Make sure that your thighs and hips are well supported.
- Ensure that the backrest of your seat supports your middle and lower back.
- Keep your knees at or below the level of your hips.
- Your elbows should be close to your body with shoulders relaxed and forearms parallel to the ground.
- To maintain a healthy standing posture:
- Keep knees slightly bent and shoulders pulled down and back.
- Tuck your belly in (do not squeeze in because it may affect your breathing).
- Ensure that you bear your bodyweight mainly on the balls of your feet.
- Your feet must be shoulder-width apart.
- Your arms must naturally hang down along the sides of the body.
- Keep your head at a neutral position without bending it backward, forward, or side to side. Your head should be at the level where your earlobes stay in line with the shoulders.
- If you need to stand for a long time, shift your weight from the toes to heels or from one foot to another.
- To maintain a healthy sleeping and lying posture:
- To maintain a healthy driving posture:
- Sit while keeping the back firmly against the seat. You may use a cushion or pillow if needed.
- Keep the driving seat at a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel to avoid leaning while driving.
- Adjust the headrest to support the middle of the head, which will keep the head upright.
Remember that it’s never too late to correct your posture. Go gentle on yourself. Keep in mind that small but consistent improvements in your posture can go a long way to improve your overall health. Practice a good posture by looking in the mirror many times till you get it right.
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Harvard Health Publishing. Is It Too Late to Save Your Posture? December 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-it-too-late-to-save-your-posture