Compared to exercising or eating right, maintaining correct posture doesn’t tend to get quite as much publicity in the world of health and wellbeing. However, it can have just as much influence on your fitness as other, more celebrated, elements.
Keeping correct posture in all aspects of your life, including during exercise, means that all of your body is aligned and you’ve achieved proper spinal positioning. Your bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are all able to function normally and efficiently when you stand or sit up straight. In addition, all your organs are able to assume the correct positions within your body and maintain optimum functionality.
If you have trouble with your posture, whether it’s when you are sitting at a desk or running a half marathon, it can lead to some of your body being unevenly loaded. Meaning unreasonable strain is placed on specific points in your legs, neck, arms or back. This can cause numerous problems that may start out small but quickly snowball into larger issues that are more difficult to fix.
It’s always a good idea to work on your posture periodically. Even if generally you keep your spine straight and your head upright, it’s always good to think about proper posture and try out exercises to help with this.
“Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way,” says Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield talking to NHS Choices. “But with a bit of practice, good posture will become second nature and be one step to helping your back in the long term.”
There are common habits that people pick up whilst going about their daily routines, that can have long-term damaging effects. Here are a few and here’s how to correct them:
We all do it when listening to a presentation, after eating, whilst reading on a computer. The slouch is a comfortable position but can have untold difficulties on your spine and lower back. If you are used to this position your back muscles will compensate and over time will easily strain, if not seize.
This is what you can do:
Focus on exercises to strengthen your core and glute muscles. Back extensions and functional Pilates stretches, such as bridges, planks and back extensions will help course correct your posture. If you are a sloucher, aim to stretch at least 10 to 20 minutes a day, whilst you also work on correcting your sitting posture.
Sticking out your glutes!
If you have a pronounced curve in your back and you tend to stick your bottom out, you may have hyperlordosis. Whilst genetics do play a part in this habits, behaviours and lifestyle elements can cause this to happen. High heels, carrying extra weight around the stomach can lead to you trying to compensate by sticking out your back and bottom. A prolonged display of this can lead to shoulder strains and middle and lower back issues.
As with any back issues, its so important to focus on your core. Strength in the buttocks will provide extra support as well as hip flexor and thigh stretches.
If you catch yourself in the mirror, make a conscious effort to correct your standing posture by doing the following:
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed parallel with your hips
- Pull in your abdomen
- Keep your feet about hip distance apart
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet
- Try not to tilt your head forward, backwards or sideways
- Keep your legs straight, but knees relaxed
- Imagine there is a string pulling you up from the top of your head pulling you upwards.
The leg leaner
We love to queue in this country. We can’t help it. Even if there is clearly a second queue where you can go, most people will opt for the queue with people in it. And in the queue, we leg lean. We shift from one leg to the other sticking out our hips using our crossed arms or hips as support. This creates extra pressure on your leaning leg side and on your lower back and hips.
Over time this may cause you to develop muscle imbalances in your pelvis area and cause you to have a strain in your lower back and hips.
Next time you are in a queue and find your leg straying to one side, try and plant both feet shoulder width apart and count how long you can do it. You can also use planks, side leg raises and bridges to help re-define your posture.
Hunched back and text neck
We all do it. Looking at your phone or writing or reading we hunch over to get a better look because we couldn’t possibly miss that all-important fit8 post!
This can cause you to have a tight chest and weak upper back. If you are on your phone, try to keep your shoulders straight your head upright and use your eyes to look at your device.
Over time, this type of posture can contribute to you developing a rounded upper back, which can cause shoulder and upper back stiffness.
Its best to use chest stretches, seated rows (obviously with a straight back and neck), and also try to gently lengthen your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin.
If you start the process of course correcting the bad habits you may have picked up in your life, you will find improvements in how you move. More-over your performance during exercise (runners, tennis players, hockey players, cross-fitters) will develop and allow you to advance to new levels you thought were previously un-attainable.
However you struggle with your posture, remember there are always ways to course correct it. And if you are experiencing discomfort in your back, neck, hips or knees, take a moment to check your posture and seek professional help.
If you’d like a free trial with the Fit8 physiotherapists then drop in and we’ll provide you with body analysis and advice on how you can achieve effective posture.