How many times when you were growing up did someone say to you, “Stand up straight”? I remember my mum saying it to me on numerous occasions and me feeling slightly annoyed every time. It felt like a personal comment about how I was looking; but my mum was really trying to tell me that I would look and feel better about myself, if I was standing up straight. She was right of course; but being quite tall I was always trying to make myself look shorter! Now I am the mother of two grown up daughters and quite often find myself sliding the side of my hand in between their shoulder blades in an effort to get them to draw their shoulders back and stand up straighter. Incidentally, they too are quite tall and feel the same way I do! How often do you see someone else with bad posture and want to straighten them up. I must admit Theresa May did that to me – I really wanted to sort her posture out!
Good posture is crucial, to looking and feeling healthy. You can instantly improve how your body appears and your mood by adopting good posture – but to do that you need a certain amount of strength in some key muscle groups. A regular strengthen and stretch will really help.
Bad posture can make you look tired, bored, older and less confident. It can change how you feel about yourself and leads to a myriad of niggling aches and pains. Luckily we can all, with some practise, change our posture!
Good posture looks better and is better for us!
When we have good posture the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and can support the body evenly. Bones and joints are in the correct alignment and muscles are able to function properly. This in turn reduces wear and tear on joint surfaces. The spine is better protected and it helps to reduce back ache and muscular pain. In Strengthen and Stretch workouts I constantly incorporate work to strengthen, stretch and mobilise the back and abdominal muscles. It is a fact that stronger muscles and ligaments help stabilise the joints.
Basic core work done each week will help you get back in touch with your abdominal muscles, including the deep muscle fibres that help you have a flatter tummy.
What is Good Posture?
It is alright knowing that good posture is better for us; but how many of us actually know how to get and maintain good posture. We can probably see bad posture in others but can we put it right in ourselves?
Using a mirror is a good place to start – look at your standing position.
- Think about standing on both feet equally, keeping your body weight balanced equally between them.
- Don’t lock back your knee joints – just gently pull up through your legs.
- Think about your hips being directly over your ankles and your shoulders over your hips – keep your hips facing forward but don’t push them forward over your ankles.
- Tuck your bottom down and in.
- Zip up gently through your abdominal muscles – taking care not to push your ribs forward.
- Think about the natural curves of your spine.
- Draw your shoulders back and down gently.
- Keep your chin back, maintaining a lovely long neck, but don’t pull it back into your chest.
- In order to maintain all of the above, you should feel toned but not tense!
You can check your posture throughout the day. When sitting at your desk, driving, waiting in a queue etc etc.
There are many reasons for bad posture and some of them are medical (in which case advice from a medical practitioner should be sought). However, many are just laziness and if we just spent a few minutes each day thinking about our posture when doing everyday things it would make a big difference. We have long standing habits and learned behaviours that we have to counter balance. A good example is when carrying a baby or small child. How many times have you sunk into one hip and almost balanced the child on your hip. Do you still stand like that if you are waiting in a queue or standing for a long period of time? Think of the pressure that is putting on the hip joint. Again, as a tall woman, I often want to shrink a little but force myself to stand up tall. I would much rather look taller but upright, with my shoulders back and an air of confidence (that I might not actually be feeling) than looked round shouldered and hunched over.
Regular exercise will strengthen your core muscles and help to loosen joints. Both of which will enable you to improve your posture. You can then begin to feel the benefits of good posture:
- reduced low back pain and things like tension headaches
- increased energy levels – when bones and joints are in the correct alignment it means muscles can be used as intended and do what they are meant to safely
- decreased risk of joint wear and tear
- increased lung capacity
- improved circulation and digestion – if vital organs are compressed they cant work as well. Healthy blood flow requires proper body alignment.
- helps prevent injuries
- increased self confidence
- makes you look taller (not that good for me…)
A lot of our usual daily activities encourage us to lean forwards, for example, desk work, cooking, driving, so therefore it is important that we spend some time working the muscles that enable us to: pull our shoulders back, open our chest, keep our tummy toned and enjoy the feeling of being in control and beautifully aligned. How many times have you suffered from an ache in the shoulder blades following a long day at your desk? Or, lower back niggles after a long evening slouched on the sofa watching a box set?
It is unrealistic to expect ourselves to keep a good posture going all the time. No-one is saying that we must relax in the evening watching our favourite box set (I’m loving Peaky Blinders at the moment!) on a high backed chair sitting upright with good posture! But we can be more aware and make adjustments when we can. So, next time you’re driving anywhere, sitting at your desk, eating dinner, standing in a queue, going on a long walk, let’s think about how we are standing or sitting. Regular exercises to strengthen and stretch our bodies; improving strength, tone and mobility will help us to maintain a good posture which will in turn give us a sense of wellbeing with less niggly aches and pains, and an instantly better body shape!
So, let’s get moving more and strengthen and stretch those muscles that will help us maintain a better posture!