We all know on some level how important posture is. If you ever participated in an activity that required good posture (like dancing or playing a musical instrument), you know how much better you feel when your spine is straight, your shoulders are back, and your eyes face forward.
And yet, even though we know how positively good posture affects our lives (physically, emotionally, and mentally), we are all still guilty of slouching into our work chair or couch and letting our spine and shoulders curve into unnatural positions.
How did we get this bad?
Technology and luxury have something to do with it. Although the human body isn’t designed for so much sitting, we have developed lifestyles that involve hours at a desk and in front of the TV. Walking and standing—important cures to bad posture—just aren’t large parts of our culture any more.
Another reason, perhaps, is that we don’t know the true negative and positive effects of posture. Because if people knew the power of sitting up straight, their attitude toward slouching would surely change.
In the spirit of enlightenment, here are just a few of the effects of posture—good and bad—and a few sure fire ways to get your alignment back.
Effects of Good Posture
Elicit Positive Memories – Some studies have shown that we think more positively when we sit up straight. Those with good posture in one particular experiment were more likely to remember positive memories or think about something positive in general.
Improve Energy Levels – Other studies have shown that a slow, slumped walk can drain us of energy while skipping significantly increased energy levels. Skipping encourages you to move and straighten your spine in order to jump, so try skipping back to the office after your lunch break to get a much-needed energy boost.
Encourage Decision Making – Researchers from Columbia and Harvard universities found that powerful body language, like upright posture, affected decision making. One study found that those in powerful poses not only felt more in control, but were 45 percent more likely to take risky bet.
Hormone Effect – A Harvard study also showed that those in powerful poses had a 20 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol levels. Why care? Because high testosterone and low cortisol have consistently been linked to disease resistance and leadership abilities. Conversely, those with bad posture received the opposite effect.
Align Bones, Ligaments, and Muscles – How often do you feel pain in your lower back, shoulder, neck, or wrist after sitting for a long time? Good posture and frequently moving and standing can help greatly in relieving some of these common pain points.
Protect Organs – When you slouch, your vital organs can become squished. Good posture keeps your organs in the right position and allows them to work better and more efficiently.
Support Nervous System – Proper posture helps your nervous system work more efficiently, which is why posture can affect everything from bodily functions (such as digestion, breathing, and joints) to mood.
Effects of Bad Posture
Fatigue – When your muscles have to work extra hard to support your body, you waste energy. This can leave you feeling exhausted and even sick at times.
Deepen Depression – A study from San Francisco State University found that students who walked in a slouched position reported increased feelings of depression. This is one of many studies that have shown a link between depression and bad posture.
Appear Non-Vital at Work – Slouching can also affect how people see you. When you are slouching or bent over at work, people may not perceive you as vital and you can lose face with the company.
Increase Risk of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease – English researchers cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes and found that those who sat the most more than doubled their risk of developing diabetes and had a 147 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they exercised.
Look Fatter – It may be silly, but it’s true. When you sit and slouch, you push your organs down and out, giving you the appearance of being a heavier weight.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Posture
Luckily, it’s easier than you think to improve your posture. If you’re ready to see big changes in your life with minimal effort, try these simple tricks for perfecting your posture.
There’s a saying among posture experts that “the best posture is the next posture.” Basically, you should always keep moving. Walking around helps your body reset itself into a healthy posture, so make an effort to get up from your desk or the couch at least twice an hour.
Similar to walking around, standing helps reset your body and keep your spine aligned. Standing desks are often recommended for those who work at a desk for eight hours a day or those who have back pain.
If you can’t get a standing desk, try making one using boxes or crates and see if a new position alleviates some of your pain. Also, keep in mind that standing burns 20 percent more calories than sitting and can strengthen your muscles, boost your metabolism, and increase bone density.
3. Yoga, Pilates, and Dance
Back pain and slouching can be remedied by strengthening your core. Exercises like yoga, pilates, and dance also help you get moving and rev up sluggish organs.
Try mixing these workouts together with a program like Cardio Barre. There, you get all the health and mental benefits of these exercises in just one class.
4. Posture Sensor
Use technology to help you get your posture in gear. Simple movement reminders like a FitBit can get you out of your chair and into alignment, but more complex sensors like LUMOback will also vibrate to remind you to sit up straight when you start slouching.
5. The Superman
Imagine you have a giant “S” on your chest like Superman. The “S” should always face proudly forward, so when you notice your chest start to collapse inward, remember to push it back out. Roll your shoulders back, keep your chin up, and lengthen your spine up toward the ceiling.
Good posture is not only better for your health, it’s better for your whole life. Use this simple habit change to greatly improve your life today.