The benefits of maintaining proper posture go well beyond just looking good. Not only do joints such as shoulders, hips and knees move better with proper posture and alignment, but internal organs also work more efficiently when your posture is in line.
In fact, the effect of improper posture on the internal organs can create digestive and circulatory issues that can lead to discomfort, lack of energy and even illness. Proper posture can also help reduce headaches caused by improper neck alignment and reduce lower back pain.
According to Harvard Medical School, proper posture includes the following elements:
- chin parallel to the floor
- shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
- neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
- arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
- abdominal muscles braced
- hips even
- knees even and pointing straight ahead
- body weight distributed evenly on both feet
Several factors can negatively affect posture. These include imbalances of strength and flexibility, improper placement of computer and digital screens, sitting for extended periods of time day after day and lack of core strength. Depending on how extreme posture deviations are in a person and eliminating the presence of structural abnormalities, improving your posture can be as simple as making small changes to your daily routine.
One way to start improving your posture is to sit and stand straight and tall, just as we were told to do as children. Extending the spine helps to take the load off the lumber area and hips. Without over exaggerating, lift your chest and pull your shoulders back and down. Keep your chin pulled back so that your ears are aligned with your shoulders when being viewed from the side. Knees, hips and feet should all align with one another regardless of whether you're sitting or standing.
In addition to these simple adjustments, reduce the amount of time spent sitting and in front of video and computer screens. Take breaks from sitting and screens every 20 minutes if possible. While standing desks or desks that raise to a standing level are a better option than traditional desks, it's actually better to stand up, stretch and take short walks. This allows muscles to stay flexible and ensure proper blood flow to lower extremities.
Improved posture can be achieved by periodically reminding yourself to make these simple adjustments. Use a mirror to assess your own posture and memorize how your body feels while maintaining proper alignment. If you are experiencing pain in your joints or if you feel that poor posture is caused by structural abnormalities, injuries or disease, it's best to schedule an appointment with a qualified physician.