By: Maggie Young
Good posture isn’t just about looking your best in your Instagram pics, but it can contribute to a larger picture when it comes to your overall health. How we carry ourselves impacts our muscle chain and major organ systems, including respiratory function and risks for cervical (neck) degenerative diseases. While this sounds bleak, the good news is by strengthening the correct muscles and avoiding the wrong positioning, we can potentially avoid this. (That said, we do recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional to provide you with the best diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition.)
Below, we tap expert Dr. Ashley Herman, Doctor of Physical Therapy, on some quick tips for ways to get you on the road to good posture. Scroll on to read more.
Proper posture helps us position optimally, which alleviates stress on muscles and joints. “It allows for our organ systems to function normally without compressive forces on them,” Dr. Herman tells Lively. “Good posture allows us to have the most efficient breathing technique to get the best oxygen intake that can then be delivered to all of our muscles and organ systems allowing for optimal function.” Plus, the confidence of standing up taller never hurts!
Unfortunately, there is quite a list of issues that come with bad posture. “Constantly sitting in a slouched posture places a great deal of increased load and strain on the lumbar (lower back) discs and joints, which can lead to back pain and potentially leg pain or numbness/tingling if it affects a nerve,” shares Dr. Herman. Poor back positioning also causes a common forward neck position, which, in turn, increases stress on neck joints and increases the potential of degenerative neck diseases. This can lead to pain, numbness, tingling down the arms or even problems with respiration.
That said, there are easy things you can do to enhance your positioning. First of these is avoiding slouching forward, sliding your hips forward while keeping your back up against the chair or holding your phone down low and texting and scrolling for hours with your neck forward. These situations put a lot of strain on muscles and cause unnecessary tension. Being cognizant of conditions like these throughout your day can help you catch yourself, make adjustments and avoid longterm ramifications.
RELATED: 5 Best Exercises for Office Workers
Luckily, there are exercises you can do to nix your slouchy habit. Consider the following Pilates-inspired movements, which (bonus!) can all be done while at work:
It takes constant check-ins and reminders to get your muscles into the right alignment naturally, and fortunately, there are quite a few hacks to get you on the right track. Dr. Herman suggests starting by setting a timer on your phone, or computer, to get up from sitting every 30 minutes (since that’s where we tend to demonstrate the worst of our postural tendencies). She notes that even 30 seconds of standing helps!
However, if you can’t stand up, sitting on the edge of your chair can help you find better postural alignment (vs. reclining back into a chair). If nothing else, you can sit all the way back into your chair so that you’re upright and the back of the chair is providing you with the support to sit up straight.
Now you know!