The old adage is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
This cliché doesn’t apply to all situations, but in the realm of good posture, its subsequent health benefits, and making the small things count, a little improvement goes a long way.
Your Mama, She Told You So!
It is a familiar refrain, the corrective demand from a teacher, your parents: “Sit up straight!” Like so many other admonishings from authority figures when you were young, you discover in your adulthood that they were right. You should sit up straight. You should roll your shoulders back. If only we had listened well in our youth.
It shouldn't come as a great surprise to learn there are many benefits from sitting and standing properly. These habits contribute to our well-being physically, physiologically and even psychologically, according to some studies.
In short, sit up straight, stand tall, don't slouch – good posture is good for you.
Those Curves Tho! 3 Sexy Twists and Turns of the Neutral Spine
What constitutes proper posture? A key is a properly positioned spine. Ideally, the body will rest and be comfortable in a neutral spine position. Neutral spine is a bit of a misnomer, as the natural position of the spine has three gentle curves.
These curves form an S-shape when viewed in profile. They are called the cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves, describing the areas of the spine down from the neck to the middle back to the lower back.
A harmony and balance of these three curves result in the neutral spine.
Exaggeration or overextension of any of these curves describes a posture out of balance and can result in discomfort, short-term injury, and long-term adverse health effects.
The Top 5 Aspects of Good Posture
Let’s Start with the Man in the Mirror (That's You, Dude!)
Take an honest look -- have your girlfriend, wife or buddy take a photo of you in shorts standing in your natural, go-to, comfortable position. How is your posture? You're going to be surprised, and likely not pleased. Don't worry -- you are not alone. Most of us have developed movement habits over time that have wrecked our posture.
But guess what? It can be corrected. You can improve your posture.
It's slow-going, it will take vigilance and consistency, and it will feel awkward or even uncomfortable for a while until you have re-taught your body good posture.
For those that spend the majority of the day in various sedentary positions (happens to most) you need little reminders to help you tune in your posture. It is something people take for granted and have spent a lifetime sub-consciously developing as a habit.
You can't undo the effects of a lifetime of behavior with a few quick fixes or sets at the gym. This kind of fix means you've got to table your ego and really look at your own patterns.
How Do You Make the Worst Impression Possible?
Yeah, don't do that, ever. But realize this – your posture is already at work making impressions on everyone you encounter. You might already be making an impression contrary to what you want to project, professionally and socially.
Picture meeting a colleague for the first time: they approach you with rounded, slumping shoulders, their neck and chin jutting out, chest caved inward. Before they even open their mouth to speak, you've likely made some snap judgments.
They might be about to blow you away with great insight, but because of their posture and body language, they’re starting out from a compromised position in your mind.
You might view them as soft, ineffective, even weak. Is that what you want your own body language to convey about you?
Of course not! You want your ideas to be taken seriously to have the respect and esteem of your co-workers. Bad posture, especially in the extreme described above, can put you at a disadvantage in how you are perceived.
It is worth addressing.
What Exactly Does Your Posture Do for You?
These are all positive outcomes, and regardless of how dialed in you are, who doesn’t want less muscle pain and better concentration?
There's nothing woo-woo about those benefits above. They are all purely mechanical results of improved posture. Here are the four benefits of having a good posture.
Reduced Muscle Tension
Depending on what kind of poor posture you have, you may experience muscle or musculoskeletal pain in your neck, shoulders, upper, mid or lower back. Once corrected, your body learns to come to rest in a newly balanced stasis, and the pains caused by bad posture will no longer be recurring, omnipresent issues.
A balanced, neutral spine does not suffer pain from poor spine positioning.
Increased Concentration and Performance
Good posture is a position of alertness. It is a position whereby you can react to stimuli from any direction, it is the instinctive pose of readiness.
The mind follows the body here. It mirrors the body’s readiness. Sitting upright, with a neutral spine, encourages proper blood flow and places the body and mind in state, not of tension, but preparedness.
Just think on how you feel when lying back, reclining, or slouching deeply. Are you awake, alert, engaged?
Okay, really? Seems a little far-fetched, but again, it is just mechanics. Proper posture, both sitting and standing, opens up your torso, allowing your organs to settle into their natural locations, improving blood flow, breathing capacity, and yes, digestive flow.
Better Physical Appearance
It’s not that good posture is going to make you better looking. What it is going to do is straighten you out, make you stand your full natural height, pull your shoulders into alignment and quite possible, tuck your beer belly back a bit.
Fix a beer belly? How? Many men stand with their pelvis tipped back. This is often coupled with shoulders that slump forward and what's the result of this pose? A pooched-out belly. Say that you look better, more confident and at ease with your belly pooched out. No, sir.
Dig in, Because This Is Not a Quick Fix
If you're looking to improve your posture (by now you're on board, hopefully) you'll do well to prepare yourself for the long haul. You're going to be working to undo a lifetime’s worth of habits, patterns that you are not consciously aware of, patterns you've developed in response to a host of experiences.
3 Easy Life Hacks to Get Good Posture Just Using Your Phone
Set timers on your phone
There are apps and wearables you can get to tell you when your posture is sagging or to remind you to make corrections, or you can just set timers yourself. Choose a new sound for the notification – not one you typically use for any other purpose. Give it some intention, but don't annoy yourself.
Start with a manageable interval – set a timer to go off every 2 hours reminding you to straighten up and square off. If you can handle a more frequent reminder, go for it. If you'd rather not have that frequent of a reminder, loosen it up. Make the timing work for you.
Spend less time aimlessly playing with your phone
Look around right now, chances are, someone is absorbed by their phone near you. Analyze their posture for a moment: what is their back position, how do they hold their head, neck and shoulders? How are their legs and feet positioned? Further, what's your general impression of them?
Now flip that lens right back on yourself.
Chances are they are compressing their cervical spine, that uppermost curve, as they flip thru apps for the 5th time this morning.
Make your phone time more purposeful, and you'll find that you don't lapse into that zombie head drop nearly as much.
Set a new background image or home screen image
... of an inspiration for improved posture. You could go the scientific route and use an image of the spine in a neutral position, or you could pick some beast from Manchester United mid-stride. Pick something that legitimately inspires you. You’re not trying to nag at yourself, you're improving yourself in a basic and very deep-seated way.
So, pick out and inspiring reminder image, set those timers, and then put down your phone.
Do the Work and Get Your Posture Back
Whatever the root causes, you can create good posture for yourself with focus and patience. It's incredible that something so simple can have so many far-reaching effects on the body, your mood, even your interactions and relationships.
Taking a close look at your posture really amounts to taking a closer look at your habits and how you present yourself to the world. Bearing in mind that making changes in your posture requires consistency, you can see the change through.
Just like the posture that you want to improve, your posture will become routine and a new habit. It will become a habit that you want to cultivate, not one built by circumstance and reaction over time. It will become a habit whereby you represent yourself as you want to be: more alert, confident and at ease. Not to mention more comfortable.