If you’ve ever tried to balance a book on your head while sitting down or walking around, you know how difficult it is. While other variables contribute to how long the book stays on, the main predictor is how straight you can stand up. This is, of course, directly correlated to your posture. Most people could do with some posture correction, as many of us sit hunched over at desks looking at our screens all day. But should you buy a back brace or a standing desk? What solution will work best for you?
It is effortless to slouch throughout the day, but bad positioning throughout the day can contribute to other health issues over time. It is essential to maintain good posture through consistent movement so you can continue to move, work, and live at your best. Many of our clients at EW Motion Therapy will receive a posture evaluation, no matter what they initially come in for, because of how important posture is to your body’s functionality. Even if you decide not to see us for an evaluation, we still want to discuss ways to improve your posture.
This article will discuss what makes “good” and “bad” posture, how bad posture can create health problems over time, and ways to correct your posture in your daily routine. With this information, you can make lasting changes and even stand a little taller.
Bad posture can impact your functional movement over time. Learn more about what that means here.
Good posture vs. bad posture
Before we discuss what characterizes “good” and “bad” posture, let’s distinguish between posture and positioning. Your posture and positioning should ideally fluctuate throughout the day, and some positions are better than others. The key to healthy posture is continual movement and changing positions - if you sit completely straight all day long, that is technically a bad posture because you are not moving from that position. So don’t worry if you get distracted and find yourself slouching - as long as you change position and maintain awareness of your sitting position, you will maintain healthy habits and good posture.
A visual is the best way to compare “good” and “bad” positioning regarding posture. Imagine a rope with a weight on one end - perfectly vertical. Now think about the rope passing through your body. By definition, you have good posture when that rope passes directly through five landmarks on your body:
Ear and jaw
Center of shoulder
Center of hip
If that perfectly vertical rope hits all five of those landmarks, then your posture can be considered perfect. However, as you know, most people do not have ideal posture. For many, a large portion of the body will be in front of that rope, meaning the weight is shifted forward. Because that rope will not directly hit the five landmarks, that is considered “bad” posture. It is sometimes easier to assess posture with this weighted rope technique, as it can be more reliable than the naked eye in determining where the body weight is shifting.
Most people develop bad posture over time as a result of daily habits. Because many people sit for most of the day, our hip flexors tighten, which shifts the pelvis forward. Generally, when the pelvis moves forward, the head and the rest of the body will follow. If movement is not consistent throughout the day, such as setting a timer to get up from your desk and walk around, your body becomes more used to being in one position for an extended period. It is essential to make yourself aware of the positions you sit and stand in throughout the day so you can make tiny adjustments and maintain movement as a habit.
How can bad posture affect your health over time?
If posture is not corrected, there are a few adverse effects on your body. First, bad posture contributes heavily to joint degeneration. Because of the improper alignment in your body, some joints absorb more force than they would in someone with good posture. Additionally, there is a muscle imbalance, where some muscles become tighter, and some weaken. For example, sitting for a long time can cause you to develop tight hip flexors and weaker glutes. Posture can even affect your digestion and breathing due to changing position of the organs that facilitate these processes.
Your posture is not only a direct reflection of your physical health but of your mental health as well. If you are less confident, it is a common instinct to shrink and hunch over, which over time can impede your movement. No one deserves the physical or mental consequences of bad posture, but there are things you can do to correct your posture throughout the day.
How can you fix bad posture in your daily life?
The best thing to remember for posture correction is to change the position of your pelvis - everything else will follow. You can test this with a wall, an easily accessible vertical structure. Stand as tall as you can against the wall with your feet 6-8 in. away, then tilt your pelvis until your lower back touches the wall. If your low back is already against the wall, you can squeeze your shoulder blades and lean your upper back up against the wall. You can repeat this maneuver as often as you like, which is a great way to train your pelvis to rest in a more neutral position. If this is difficult, you might benefit from a physical therapy evaluation to determine specific areas that need strengthening or stretching. These are all essential parts of healthy posture and a healthy body.
Additionally, it is vital to move throughout the day. Don’t let your body stay in one position for too long - set a timer to stand up occasionally, or go for a quick walk around your space every hour of the day. Your movement is a direct reflection of your health, and movement is a direct contributor to good posture.
Standing up straighter is a sign of confidence, but it also signals a healthy body that can carry you through your daily activities. Physical therapy can help with muscle strengthening as part of posture correction, and we do posture evaluations on many of our clients at EW Motion Therapy. If you are curious about what physical therapy can do for you, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently-asked physical therapy questions.