Seven Tips to Stand Taller, Sit Straighter and Live Better
Growing up to our grandmothers, mothers and aunts harping about bad posture, we thought it was about drinking tea nicely and being “a lady.” Certainly part of it was that. But, on a much deeper level, they were right.
Sit up straight.
Good posture is good for your body and your brain, even bettering your possibilities of getting a good job.
Good posture effects our work, our mood, our circulation, our energy levels, and even the way people see us. Stand up tall is more than just physical. It’s attitude. A Harvard study cites the importance of posture with job interview success. “As predicted, high power posers performed better and were more likely to be chosen for hire, and this relationship was mediated only be presentation quality, not speech quality.”
With so many of us hunched over computers and I-phones, we slip into the slouch, not even realizing we’re balling our bodies up, making our muscles, nerves and brains work extra hard to do their jobs!
The anatomy of the slouch:
- Our head juts forward and leans down. This effects anterior neck muscles, over-stretching the trapezius, splenius, and longissimus. So? This keeps our head out of alignment with the rest of our body and actually hinders communication lines between our brains and body. Imagine instead of taking a straight route up, our nerve signals have to zig-zag their way. (Willow Ryan, Three Exercises to Reverse Effects of Poor Posture, www.breakingmuscle.com)
- Our sternum and chest pull inward, compressing our diaphragm. So our breathing becomes more labored.
- Our shoulders and upper back are rounded, causing extra stress on our neck, back and shoulders. Headaches and tension in our upper body are often direct results of bad posture.
One key problem is that we don’t even know what good posture is. We imagine stick-straight backs when, in fact, the spine is naturally inclined to curve away from the body’s midline. Bad posture, though, is when the upper part of the backbone droops to the floor, that curled forward position we described above. (Olga Khazan, “Slouching Towards Not Slouching”, The Atlantic, September 29, 2014).
A great way to find your good posture place is by standing in front of the mirror with your hands to your sides. If your thumbs are facing forward, you’re standing straight. If, however, your palms face backward, you’ve slipped into the slouch.
As a personal trainer, most of my clients spend their days hunched over computers and desks. Here are some tips to battle the slouch and elongate your spine!
Getting your Posture Back:
- We’re a nation of professional sitters. At work, set a timer on your phone to stand every 30 to 40 minutes. Walk to get a glass of water. Stretch and lengthen your core again.
- Sit straight. This means your feet should be on the floor. If they don’t reach, put them on a little stool. Your knees should be hip level or slightly lower. A gap should be between the chair and your knees. While working, your arms should be parallel to the floor, shoulders relaxed, and you should be looking straight forward.
- Avoid couch and bedroom laptop time. And don’t talk with your phone cradled between your shoulder and chin. Hold the phone to your ear.
- Strengthen your core. Posture – good or bad – is a direct result of core strength or weakness. Pilates and yoga are two of the most popular core-strengtheners. But many of us are juggling work, family, T-ball and a thousand other things. You can do core exercises at home, while watching TV, before collapsing.
- Sit with your hands to your sides and stand up straight. Sit back down again.
- Try the plank. This is HARD. During advertisements, put your body in plank position, with abdomen tight. The better you get, the longer you can hold the position. (Start with 15 seconds. Build up. See how far you get after a few weeks!)
- Try commercial crunching or sit-ups. While advertisements are on, work on your abs.
- Do the cobra pose.
- While standing, stand with your knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart, and abdomen in. (Tuck that tummy in!)
- Stretch. Roll your shoulders back. Arch over a physioball to stretch your abdominals, the fronts of the your thighs and chest muscles, all of which get tight when sitting in a chair.
- Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or your side, with a pillow between your knees. No stomach sleeping!
Just as you didn’t get poor posture overnight, it won’t be corrected overnight. But with a few changes in the way you work, with a few exercises every evening, you’ll notice a difference in how you work. Be present and aware of how you sit and stand and work toward better posture and better health.