The Importance of Posture

Female medical provider demonstrating to young girl proper posture.

- 9/19/2018

You may have heard the term “power pose.” The ways we sit and stand often make us look and feel more confident. More than just empowerment, proper posture leads to better overall health. It affects our breathing, energy levels and bodily alignment. Yet many of us don’t pay attention to posture until it leads to problems like back or neck pain. There are reasons why focusing on posture now, not later, are beneficial.

Good posture allows for more efficient breathing. When you’re slumped over, the rib cage collapses a bit, leaving less room for lungs to open. This leads to inefficient breathing and affects other areas of the body.

“One of the first things that come to mind about proper posture is that it affects how you breathe,” said Albi Gilmer, physical therapist and facility manager at Andrews Institute Rehabilitation. “With a poor posture form, you could be potentially closing off your lungs’ maximum capability.”

When more oxygen can be delivered to the brain, cognition can improve. As you’re inhaling and exhaling in better form, you can mentally focus. This leads to more opportunities for learning, increased energy and output. 

Bodily alignment is vital to proper posture. Gilmer explains that individuals can actually have nothing wrong with the back but poor posture habits can lead to severe pain.

“Our body tissues adapt and if individuals hold the same bad positions repeatedly, it will affect the bodily structure and become the new norm,” said Gilmer. “If that new norm is sitting or standing poorly on a routine basis, then that can lead to strain in the back and neck.”

This doesn’t mean that we need to stand at attention like a soldier to have good posture. Proper form should feel relaxed and easy, not rigid or strained. 

Gilmer teaches proper techniques for sitting and standing at Andrews Rehabilitation Institute. He says no equipment, specialty items or money are needed. His recommendation is to self-correct, which takes one to two seconds every 15 minutes and continue this practice until proper posture becomes a habit.

“You don’t need extra tools or fancy equipment,” said Gilmer. “You just have to have the willpower and willingness to accept that this is something you need to work on. A perfect position isn’t needed all the time but you should not be slouched for extended periods of time because it will hurt you in the long run.”

Simple things we can do each day to improve posture include:

1. Look up more. It sounds simple but we spend more time hunched over, staring at phones or other electronic devices. Practice looking up and arching your back to counter the stresses of looking down for long periods of time.

2. Walk regularly. It’s hard to slouch and maintain poor posture as you’re walking. Take short walk breaks throughout the day.

3. When you feel yourself slouching, push your chest and your buttocks outward in opposite directions. Lift your chest up and forward. Move your buttocks backward. It may feel odd at first but this is a better position for you. 

4. Stand more but stand properly. As you stand, shift your weight to the toes instead of keeping weight in the heels.

Even years of bad posture can be improved, no matter the age or situation. With a little bit of help and daily practice, posture can be enhanced. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing pain to pay attention to your posture. Visit your primary care physician so he or she can determine if a referral to Andrews Institute Rehabilitation may be needed.