Do you often have to remind yourself to straighten up? Driving long distances, sitting behind an office desk all day long, sleeping in awkward positions and frequent use of modern technology devices have all taken a toll on the way we hold our body.
Having a poor posture can negatively affect the health of your bones, joints and internal organs, impairing your quality of life in the long term. Jobs that require prolonged sitting or standing, lack of physical activity and chronic stress are all contributing factors to a bad posture. And bad posture is one of the main reasons for recurring pain in the back and neck.
Exercise strengthens muscles, which helps hold your body in the correct position. But while it’s true that you can benefit a lot from working out, keep in mind that posture problems are usually born from bad habits – if you continue to stand, walk, sit and lie the way you’re used to, the pressure on your joints and ligaments will remain the same and your progress will be limited. But if you pair your regular trainings with a few simple yet efficient changes in the three basic body positions – standing, sitting and lying – to balance your muscle activity and ligament alignment, you could easily improve your posture and physical performance and eliminate any existing pain. And all it takes to get there is to develop a greater body awareness and have a bit of patience with yourself.
Correcting your posture will be weird and difficult at first – your body has become used to standing or sitting in a particular way and will initially resist the changes. But with the help of conscious effort and adequate exercise, you can successfully retrain it to stand and sit correctly.
Where should you start?
Try these three guidelines to correct your posture during everyday activities.
Position #1: Standing
If you experience pain from prolonged periods of standing, the reason could be one of these:
- Shifting a bigger part of your weight to one of the legs or forward on your feet
- Slouching the upper back
- Positioning the head forward, i.e. in front of the spine
An ideal standing position should look like this:
- The feet are pointing straight ahead or slightly out
- The spine is straight and the body is not leaning on either side
- The ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears are all aligned
- The weight is evenly distributed across both legs and the entire soles of the feet
- The shoulders are back and relaxed
- The chest is perpendicular to the ground
When you catch yourself slouching or getting out of the correct shape, perform three quick jumps to regain balance across the whole body.
Position #2: Sitting
You are most likely to experience pain while sitting when:
- Your upper back is slouched
- Your head is positioned in front of the spine
- Your body weight is shifted to one side more than the other
- Your arms are not supported
- One of your legs is crossed over the other
And the ideal sitting position should look like this:
- The feet are flat on the ground and pointing straight ahead or slightly out
- The hips are flexed to 90 degrees
- The hips,shoulders and ears are aligned
- The body weight is evenly distributed on the glutes
- The head is kept straight and not tilted up or down
- The shoulders are back and relaxed
To prevent hunching and help your body get into its ideal position while sitting, raise your arms overhead, then pull them down and push the elbows down and back. Repeat this quick exercise as often as possible during long periods of sitting – it lengthens your spine and opens up your chest, thereby lessening the soreness and pain in the back caused by poor posture and muscular tension.
Position #3: Lying
Most common mistakes made in the lying position include:
- Lying on the side with the body curled up in a fetal position
- Lying on the side with an under-supported or over-supported neck
- Lying on the side with one shoulder and/or hip rotated towards the opposite side
- Lying on your stomach, which causes pressure on the cervical spine
- Having a tall stack of pillows that causes unnatural bending of the neck
The optimal sleeping position should look like this:
- Lying on the side with a slight bend in the knees and hips
- The shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are stacked directly above the opposite side
- The ankles, hips, shoulders and ears are aligned
- One pillow is placed under the head and one can be optionally placed between the arms and knees
- Sides are frequently alternated
To correct your sleeping position, try sleeping on the side with a pillow between the legs for better support and to achieve a more natural alignment of the body.
It’s important to know that you shouldn’t be in the same position for long periods of time, no matter how perfect it is. Also, your body needs to move every now and then, so make sure you take breaks from work to stretch and walk for a few moments – this will improve your posture, enhance circulation and sharpen your cognition at the same time. The sooner you start correcting your posture, the easier it will be for your body to adapt to the changes, and before you know it, you’ll feel relaxed and confident in your own body. Just replace the bad habits with healthy ones and don’t forget to keep your head up!