Unlocking One of The Best-kept Secrets
Good posture is also known as having a neutral spine. This is when the muscles around the spine are equally balanced, providing support to the body.
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Good Posture Reminders
It’s hard to forget a story that a friend shared with us. And we think this one resonates with all of us. Ad a teenager, she had an aunt who seemed to take great pleasure in announcing posture status every time she visited. She would fire out commands in true military style. “Stand up straight!” and “Put your shoulders back!” and the dreaded “Why are you hunching over?”
The problem was that once the visit was over, it wasn’t long before her posture had resumed back to its teenage slouched position, with her shoulders around her ears, even after all those barked out orders and reminders.
Our friend also said that it didn’t help either that she was extremely tall and struggling with self-confidence issues. Fast forward thirty-something years, and unfortunately the hunched shadows of her youth had never gone away. Now in her 50's, it wasn’t teenage angst affecting her posture anymore; instead, it was weak core muscles caused by nearly a lifetime of sitting at a desk for more than ten hours a day.
This, coupled with the fact that any spare time during her child-rearing, career-chasing years, was spent trying to relax (she blames the couch in a humorous way, saying that she’s sure they put something into the materials that attract weak bodies), which gave us all a good laugh. But there’s an element of sadness to it all. Couch time and desk slouching combination results in poor posture directly related to a weak core. Which is something the aunt didn’t seem to suffer with as her posture was as straight as an arrow. And it was probably down to a robust set of core muscles and the healthy lifestyle she led.
Although many of us may have found commands to stand up straight when we were growing up irritating or embarrassing, those grownups at the time were onto something. That’s because good posture is integral to our overall health. Before we dive into the benefits of having a good posture, let’s look at what good posture looks like and how it links with our core muscles.
What Does Good Posture Look Like When Sitting?
Both feet should be flat on the floor when in a seated position. Your weight should rest evenly on both hips, and your back should be straight (allowing for natural spine curvature in the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical areas). In addition, your shoulders should be relaxed, back and down, and your neck should not strain forward. See the illustration below:
What Does Good Posture Look Like When Standing?
When standing, your weight should be evenly balanced on both hips, back straight, and shoulders relaxed. In addition, avoid locking the knee joint or hyperextending it (stretching beyond its limit). Your knees should be just slightly bent. A poor posture occurs when our core is weak and struggles to support the head, shoulders, and ribcage. This leads to slumping or slouching when either sitting or standing. See the illustration below:
5 Signs of a Weak Core
The first step to improving our posture is to identify whether we have a weakened core in the first place. Signs of a weak core are easy to spot using the following five-step guide:
Struggling to balance when walking, standing, or bending down are signs of a weak core. A weak core cannot hold the body in alignment, causing the body to compensate in other ways and often leaving you feeling off-balance.
Low Endurance When Standing
If you experience pain when standing for long periods in the legs (hip, knee, ankle, feet) or lower back, it could be that your core muscles are weak. When your core is weak, the body uses other muscles to keep you upright, often resulting in strain and subsequent pain.
Difficulty breathing when exercising or moving could signify that your core is weak. Poor posture coupled with a weak core can affect the diaphragm’s ability to engage and help you breathe deeply when exerting yourself.
Lower Back Pain
Weak core muscles cannot support the body’s weight correctly, resulting in the nagging, sharp pains associated with lower back pain.
Core strength is essential for good posture; when the head, shoulders, and rib cage are supported correctly, it prevents the back pain experienced from poor posture and subsequent slouching. If you experience any of these signs, chances are you have a weak core that requires some tightening up.
9 Benefits of Good Posture
Now that you have some idea what good posture looks like and how it dovetails with a strong core, let’s dive into the benefits of having excellent posture.
Reduced lower back pain
Good posture alleviates the pressure felt on the posterior spinal structures, intervertebral discs, ligaments, facet points, and muscles. This pressure occurs when we sit or stand for long periods.
Increased energy levels
We all want to be more energetic, after all, this is the point of getting fit! When your posture is in perfect alignment (bones and joints aligned), the muscles can function correctly and efficiently, preventing unnecessary fatigue. Less fatigue means more energy for the fun things in life, no early nights for us!
Less tension in the neck and shoulders
We’ve all felt that tight neck and shoulder pain, especially after a long day sitting at a desk. This forward posture puts stress on the upper back, neck, and shoulders. Good posture eliminates the stress felt on the joints and ligaments.
Increased lung capacity
When the body is in a slouching position, it restricts our lungs and prevents them from expanding sufficiently. Conversely, good posture helps us stand taller, opens our chests, and allows our lungs to expand correctly, improving our breathing.
Improved digestion and circulation
Poor posture can mean that vital organs are compressed, preventing proper function and blood circulation, thus leading to poor functionality. Conversely, good posture promotes blood circulation and functionality.
Reduced risk of abnormal wear and tear
Our joints naturally wear down as we age, but good posture ensures our joints wear evenly, preventing pain and other issues.
Fewer tension headaches
Poor posture has been linked to tension headaches due to muscle tension experienced in the neck. Good posture relieves this muscle tension and can improve or reduce headaches.
Improved core strength
Good posture is the result of strong core muscles. When you maintain a good posture, your core and back muscles are engaged and support the body correctly.
Reduced jaw pain
Poor posture often results in a forward head position placing stress on our jaw muscles which can cause pain when talking, eating, and yawning. This jaw tension can also cause the sensation of clicking when opening your mouth.
As you can see, besides all the healthy food and exercise required to keep us strong and fit throughout our lives, a good posture also provides many physical benefits, which are directly linked to a strong core.
*A book we recommend for developing good posture as you age is Core Strength.
Life can be amazing after 50
...especially when you're physically able to enjoy it. Make this the healthiest time of your life!