by Katherine Kilpatrick
When your mother told you to stand up straight, she was on to something. Poor posture makes you look sloppy, lacking in confidence and out of shape. More importantly, slouching can cause physical problems that will last a lifetime.
These days, it’s affecting all ages. It starts when we’re young, even more so with the amount of time kids are spending in front of a computer or carrying loaded backpacks. The consequences are exacerbated as we age. If you don’t catch it early, you will experience chronic problems and aches and pains that can will be attributed to poor posture. Your body likes to be in proper postural alignment because that’s where it works most efficiently. The better your alignment and posture, the more energy you will have with less aches and pains. Like proper alignment in a car, everything will work together smoothly throughout your body, the way it was designed.Due to poor posture, we are looking older sooner. Shoulders round forward, the head is forward, bellies stick out, and backs sway and start to hurt. Now there’s an attractive picture! At any age, poor posture leads to tight muscles in the chest and the back of the head and to weak, overstretched muscles around the shoulder blades that can cause postural strain and degeneration of the spine.
To remedy the problem, a well-rounded (no pun intended!) exercise program that includes strengthening and stretching is recommended. Aerobic activity is essential because it helps build the endurance needed to keep good posture, and core muscles should be worked because a strong core is essential to good posture. For the general population, stretching the hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hip joint) can be helpful as these muscles become short from too much sitting. Strengthening the lower back and glutes, stretching chest muscles, strengthening scapular and back muscles, and stretching upper neck muscles are all recommended. Of note, you’ll notice we didn’t mention strengthening of the chest, only stretching. While it is ok to include a bit of chest work in a resistance program, the fact that these muscles are already tight and pulling the shoulders forward means that emphasis must be placed on the posterior (back) muscles. If you’re a sloucher, you won’t be able to maintain the best posture all day. However, if you become more aware of your posture and try straightening up for a few seconds every half hour or so, you will notice an improvement over time.
When you are walking taller, you will command more positive attention and feel more confident. And, best of all, when you stand up tall, you look like you’ve lost 10 pounds but without the diet!