From slouching at your desk to hunching over your smartphone, there are a myriad of things that contribute to a poor posture. However, simple tweaks can work wonders for our health – especially back pain.
We speak to chiropractor Rishi Loatey of the British Chiropractic Association, and Speedflex trainer, Sofia Jaouan, to get the lowdown on good posture and how to improve it:
What is a good posture?
'The ideal posture is to imagine a plumb line hanging straight from your ear, through your shoulder, hip, knee and to the ankle,' says Loatey. 'Try to stand in a relaxed way but gently contracting your abdominal muscles. When sitting, the same is true. The gravity line should pass thorough the ear, shoulder and hip.'
'A good posture is one of the cornerstones of great overall health and personal wellbeing,' explains Jaouani. 'Remember when your school teachers used to tell you to sit up straight or stand tall with your shoulders back? Turns out they were on to something. Just like bad posture is created by months or years of bad habits, good posture requires a consistent and measured approach to yield lasting results.
'We are like an interconnected system of pulleys and levers, so bad posture can often result in problems for seemingly unconnected areas in our bodies.'
How posture can impact health
There are many ways in which your posture can affect your overall health and wellbeing. These include:
A good posture (i.e. holding yourself in a way that puts the least strain on your back, and other supporting muscles and ligaments) may have a knock-on effect when it comes to breathing.
'Another often overlooked area of posture is its effect on our breathing,' says Jaouani. 'Good posture will give your diaphragm the space it needs to fully rise and fall, thus allowing you lungs to fully expand and contract when you breath in and out. The better this system works, the more efficient each breath you take. This works wonders for overall energy levels and stamina - and that that can't be bad thing!'
• Back pain
Having and maintaining a good posture is a major step in preventing back, neck and shoulder pain.
'Leading busy lives we can find that the basic warning signs of back problems can go unnoticed which can lead to longer term problems,' says Loatey. 'Experiencing back pain caused by bad posture over a long period of time can also be both physically and mentally draining.'
More specifically, it seems your lower back bears the brunt of poor posture. 'Poor posture can most commonly affect the lower back,' he adds. 'Sitting incorrectly can put nearly twice as much pressure on the discs in the spine compared to standing. When watching TV, maximise the your body has with the sofa - allowing the sofa take your weight.
'Try to take regular breaks. We advise standing up and changing position every twenty minutes and moving and stretching your upper body where possible. Staying hydrated is also important to prevent aching muscles.'
Maintaining good health into later years and being aware of how to preserve one of our body's most important assets, the back, is important in allowing us to maintain activity levels as we age.
'Our recent research shows that both women and men are now suffering from back or neck pain at an increasingly early age,' explains Loatey. 'The best way to combat the cumulative effects of poor posture is to make sure you're taking proactive measures to counteract the effects of modern lifestyles, for example, limiting the amount of time spent sitting down or hunched over a mobile phone or laptop. Regular exercise and staying generally active is also a great way to keep the body in tune as we get older.'
How to improve posture
There are many ways in which you can ensure you maintain good posture. These include:
✔️ Simple activities, such as stretching or shoulder shrugging, can all help to keep your back in line.
✔️ Exercise is the key to good posture, as a sedentary lifestyle is the enemy of a healthy back. Building muscle tone will help prevent injury, support your back and improve your posture.
✔️ Jaouani recommends doing the cobra yoga pose for stretching back muscles and the plank to strengthen the abdominal, shoulder and back muscles.