We've all heard that poor posture is bad for us, but few of us have taken it seriously. But good posture isn't just for girls in finishing school balancing books on their heads; it's a crucial step for staying healthy. Poor posture can have numerous negative effects, including the following:
Decreased Lung Capacity
When you slouch, you limit the amount of space your lungs can expand into, and you impede the movement of your diaphragm. The result is shallow "chest breathing," which allows you to get only little gasps of air. Shallow breathing causes your body to think it's under stress, even if you're at rest. The effects of too much stress on the body are numerous, negative, and well documented.
When you sit or stand with proper posture, your lungs can expand to their full capacity, and you can breathe properly from the diaphragm. This enables you to take the deep, relaxing breaths your body needs to get the right amount of oxygen.
Poor posture over time pushes your joints and muscles out of alignment. This can lead to headaches, shoulder and neck aches, and back pain. Correct posture allows you to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your joints and muscles. When you sit and walk with correct posture, you are less likely to injure yourself, and your movements are freer and more graceful.
If you hunch over while you eat, your internal organs don't have room to work efficiently. This can lead to indigestion and heartburn. When you sit up straight, your digestive tract has room to maneuver, and food can pass through unrestricted.
A person with drooped shoulders and a hunched back gives the impression that he or she lacks confidence and strength. Worse, poor posture can project an image of laziness and sullenness.
In contrast, a person who stands up straight with shoulders square and pulled back gives an air of self-assurance, capability and health. (Find out how good posture can be an athlete's secret weapon.) There is a reason why we say that someone who has courage and toughness has "backbone."
How to Improve Your Posture
If you want to improve your posture, there are a number of techniques you can start implementing in your daily life. If you sit at a desk for a good portion of the day, consider investing in ergonomic office equipment.
If fancy ergonomic equipment is not an option, give yourself little reminders throughout the day to sit up straight. For instance, any time you receive a phone call, make it a habit to pull your shoulders back and sit up straight before you speak. Any time you send an email, notice where your shoulders are. Are they hunched up by your ears? Relax them. Are they pulled forward? Pull them back.
A great way to cultivate posture awareness is to take a yoga or Pilates classes. Because they put so much emphasis on proper body alignment, they can make correct posture second nature. (Find more tips for correcting poor posture here.)
Whatever method you choose for improving your posture, stick with it! The results will make the effort worthwhile.
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