When I was a girl, my mom used to chastise me about my posture on a nearly daily basis. I was teased fairly regularly for being taller than the other girls my age, so I started slouching to make my height less noticeable. I tried to explain to my mom why being called “skyscraper” was so much worse than a little bit of slouching, but we never did see eye-to-eye on that point.
But at some point in our lives, we all have to come to terms with the fact that our mothers were right about almost everything. ;-) She was absolutely right to get after me about slouching, because good posture isn’t just about your manners—it’s actually crucial for staying fit and healthy as we age!
And that brings us to today’s blog post, because it’s all about good posture! I’ll start by explaining what good posture actually is and why it’s so important to practice, and then we’ll look at 6 common posture mistakes that we should all work on avoiding in the future!
What Is Good Posture?
▶︎ When Standing
To make sure you know what good standing posture feels like, the Mayo Clinic recommends a simple “wall test.” To do it, stand against a wall so that your head, shoulder blades, and bum are touching the wall.
Next, slide your hand between your lower back and the wall. Ideally there should be just enough room to fit your flat hand in that space. If there’s too much space, you’re arching your lower back too much, and if there’s not enough space, you probably aren’t arching it enough.
If your standing posture could use improvement, use the wall test often to remind yourself how you should be standing.
▶︎ When Sitting
When sitting, you should have both feet on the ground and your hips and knees should be level with each other. Keep your ankles slightly in front of your knees, and avoid crossing your legs for long periods.
And even if your sitting posture is picture perfect, it’s important to get up every once in a while and walk around!
Why Is Good Posture Important?
Reason #1 – Fewer Headaches
If you get headaches while sitting at your desk or working on a project, poor posture may be to blame! Unless your back is properly aligned, your neck can tire out from supporting the weight of your head. Fatigued neck muscles can send “referral pain” to your brain, resulting in painful tension headaches.
Reason #2 – Better Breathing
If you’re hunched over all the time, you’re probably not breathing as deeply as you should be. Your lungs can’t fully inflate when you’re hunched over, which means less air in your lungs and less oxygen in your blood. Your body needs oxygen to function, so it’s important to stand (or sit) up straight so you can breathe deeply.
Reason #3 – Improved Confidence
Keeping your back straight and your shoulders back isn’t just good for your back—it can do wonders for your confidence too! In a 2009 study, researchers found that participants who were told to sit up straight were more likely to stay consistent in their responses to a self-assessment than those who were told to slouch.
This suggests that practicing good posture could have a positive influence on your confidence in your own thoughts and feelings.
Reason #4 – Easier Digestion
In addition to reducing your lung capacity, poor posture can also compress your other organs, including your digestive system. Sitting up straighter (or better yet, going for a walk) is an easy way to reduce symptoms of digestive distress and keep your digestive system working properly.
Reason #5 – Less Back Pain
Chronic slouching is one of the most common causes of back pain, because it puts stress on your spine, compresses your nerves, and can even restrict blood flow. Improving your posture can alleviate all of these issues, but working on your posture may be tiring at first if your muscles aren’t used to it.
However, as you continue to practice good posture, your spine and core will get stronger, and both the fatigue and back pain will eventually disappear!
Now that you have a better idea of what good posture is and why it’s so important to practice, let’s explore a few of the posture mistakes that many of us are unwittingly making every day! Avoiding these 6 mistakes will go a long way toward helping you improve your posture and keep your back and shoulders strong. :-)
6 Posture Mistakes That Are Making You Look And Feel Older
1. Cradling Your Phone In Your Neck
We’ve all taken a phone call when our hands were full by cradling the phone between our head and shoulders. But this is a bad habit to fall into, because it can contribute to permanently hunched shoulders over time!
In the future, make sure to use speakerphone or a hands-free headset or headphones to take calls when your hands are occupied. Your back and shoulders will thank you!
2. Working On The Couch Or In Bed
There’s nothing wrong with vegging out on the couch or in bed, as long as you keep your laptop out of the equation. Looking at a computer screen in a reclined position is almost guaranteed to put strain on your neck or back, causing pain and even permanent hunching over time.
You’re better off doing your work at a desk or table where you can sit up straight, and reserving the couch or your bed for relaxing!
3. Sleeping On Your Stomach
Not all sleeping positions are created equal, and some are worse than others when it comes to your back. Sleeping on your stomach is particularly problematic, because it places strain on both your neck and lower back.
If possible, try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees, or on your side with a pillow between your legs. Either of these positions will keep your back and neck properly aligned while you sleep.
4. Bad Lifting Technique
It’s not just professional weightlifters who need to use good lifting technique! Anytime you lift a heavy object, you should bend at your knees, keep your back straight and chest forward, and hold the object close to your body.
If you don’t use these techniques, you could easily injure your back and face several weeks of pain and inconvenience while you recover. Nothing makes me feel quite as old as dealing with a back injury, which is why I try to be extra careful when it comes to lifting anything heavy!
5. Leading With Your Chin
Many of us “lead with our chins” when we sit at the computer, which essentially means we lean forward and look up at the screen with our chin jutting out. As I mentioned previously in this post, this position puts strain on your neck and can cause muscle fatigue and tension headaches.
To avoid leading with your chin while you work, it’s important make sure your screen and chair are properly positioned. Rearrange your setup if necessary to make it so that when you sit in your chair with your back straight, you don’t have to look up or down at your screen.
6. Poorly Adjusted Car Seat
While it’s important to make sure your work chair and desk are properly adjusted, don’t forget about the other seats you spend time in, like the driver’s seat in your car! Adjust the various settings on your car seat so that when you sit in it, your knees are lower than your hips and your back is straight.
And while you’re driving, resist the urge to lean on the armrest. Leaning over pulls your spine out of alignment, which can lead to back pain and other issues over time.
What’s one way you can work on improving your posture this week?