Having correct posture is important for our overall health. While many of us think it refers to the way we sit or stand, the term ‘posture’ actually refers to the way your muscles and skeleton holds your body.
We adopt certain postures whenever we undertake a particular task — sitting, standing, walking, running, surfing, dancing, driving, working at a desk or exercising.
Poor posture can lead to:
- back, neck, shoulder or hip pain
- rounded shoulders
- a pot-belly
- knees that bend while standing or walking
- head being in the incorrect position
- sore and tired muscles
What is good posture?
According to the Mayo Clinic, our back has three curves:
- An inward or forward curve at the neck
- An outward or backward curve at the upper back
- Another inward curve at the lower back.
Good posture maintains these natural curves. It also:
- ensures muscles are used properly by keeping bone and joints in alignment
- reduces the risk of abnormal wearing of our joints
- reduces the stress on ligaments that hold our spine together
- prevents muscle fatigue and pain
- reduces the risk of strain and overuse problems.
Good sitting posture
Good posture should be natural, but unfortunately for many people, it isn’t. Sitting at a desk while studying or working opens up many opportunities for bad posture. The Cleveland Clinic offers the following tips to ensure you adopt good posture while sitting:
- Ensure your chair is firm and supportive — avoid soft, squashy chairs.
- Sit with your shoulders back and your back straight.
- Avoid slouching — your buttocks should touch the back of your chair
- Where possible, use an ergonomic chair when sitting for long periods, and adjust the lumbar support to suit your back
- Keep your feet flat on the floor — place a box under your feet if the chair is too high
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Aim to change positions every 30 minutes.
Promoting good overall posture
There are key things you can do to help your posture. For example:
- Stretch several times a week to increase your flexibility
- Exercise regularly — the fitter and stronger you are the better you are able to hold proper posture
- Stretch your neck muscles regularly
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles as they are important for supporting your lower back
- When standing, distribute the weight evenly across both feet
- Avoid crossing your legs at the knees — cross at the ankles instead
- Get an ergonomic assessment if your job or study involves sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
If you experience pain in your neck, back, shoulder or hip, seek the advice of a health practitioner. While pain in these areas may be caused by bad posture, there may be other factors at play.
Similarly, if you feel you need help in improving your posture, speak to your general practitioner.