Fitness: Posture, posture, posture!

By Teresa Roberts

So just how important is good posture? Good posture is as important to your health as eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. It is as important as avoiding potentially harmful substances like alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Good posture is a way of doing things with more energy, and less stress and fatigue. Without good posture, you can’t really be physically fit.

Surprised? Well, you are not alone. The importance of good posture in an overall fitness program is often overlooked not only by the fitness seeker, but also by fitness instructors as well. In fact, the benefits of good posture may be among the best kept secrets of the current fitness movement.

We all want to look slim and confident, right? Simply by straightening your posture you can look five to ten pounds lighter! How is that for motivation? With the correct posture you can look taller, slimmer and at ease with who you are. Compare that to someone who is slumped over in their work chair, slouching while they walk or hunched up in general, and the difference is obvious, at least on the outside.

Having correct posture does not just affect the way you look to others; good posture will pass along many health benefits to you. Primarily, these health benefits occur because when your posture is correct, your muscles, organs, joints, and bones are all where they’re supposed to be. Stand or sit with improper posture, and unnecessary strain is inevitable.

A lifetime of poor posture can start a progression of symptoms in the average adult. It can start with fatigue. Your muscles have to work hard just to hold you up if you have poor posture. You waste energy just moving, leaving you without the extra energy you need to feel good. You develop tight, achy muscles in the neck, back, arms and legs. By this stage, there may be a change in our muscles and ligaments and you may have a stiff, tight painful feeling. More than 80% of the neck and back problems are the result of tight, achy muscles brought on by years of bad posture. Joint stiffness and pain are the result of poor posture and limited mobility which put you more at risk for wear and tear arthritis, or what is termed degenerative osteoarthritis.

Standing up straight is important for everyone, but at no time is it more crucial to develop the habits of good posture than in childhood. . Because they are growing and more active, children may be at even more risk of injury to the back and spine. Many adults with chronic back pain can trace the problem to years of bad posture habits or injuries in childhood.

While it will take time to adapt your body to naturally assume good posture, you can use these tips to improve your posture today. With a little perseverance, your posture will be back on track and, remember, modeling proper posture is essential to ensure that your kids have good posture too!

When sitting, place your feet flat on the ground with your hips, knees, and ankles creating 90 -degree angles. If your legs are short, don’t let your feet dangle; use a footrest instead. Sit deep; there should be no gap between your tush and back of the chair. Make sure there are about two inches between the front edge of the seat and the backs of your knees. Support your lower back with a small pillow or a small, soft, inflatable ball. Keep space between your ears and your shoulders by pulling your shoulders back and down. Hold your chin in line with your chest; don’t jut it forward.

When standing, imagine a straight line along the side of your body from your ear through your shoulder, hip, and knee down to the middle of your ankle. Pretend you have a string pulling just your head up to the ceiling; keep your shoulders pushed back and down. Tuck in your stomach and pelvis. Let your hands hang behind the side seams on your pants. Distribute your weight evenly along the full length of both of your feet.

What’s the best sleeping position? It’s essentially the fetal position, on your side with your knees drawn up. This position supports the natural curves of your spine. Sleeping on your stomach may be the worst sleep posture, as experts believe it can increase back pain by exerting pressure on joints in the back of the spine.

From the moment you adopt good posture, you will feel an improvement in the way you carry yourself. However, as you make good posture the norm for you, you will also have more energy. Good circulation is crucial to keeping your mind alert and body energized. Slumping tightens your chest and compresses your lungs, which means less oxygen makes its way into your bloodstream, leaving you tired, stressed, and mentally foggy. And strain in any part of your body saps energy.

You will experience better digestion as a result of good posture. Slouching on the sofa after eating causes your tummy muscles to tighten, which can push stomach acid into your esophagus and cause heartburn. Standing or sitting up straight allows your digestive system to work more efficiently, so you won’t experience that or other gastro problems, such as gas.

Headaches are a common by-product of our constant use of computers and other electronic gadgets. Notice how gravity draws your head forward when you’re staring at a screen. Trouble is, that position pulls on neck muscles and sensitive nerves in the back of your head and cuts blood flow to the brain. The result: a “throbbin noggin.” Sit straighter and you’ll prevent the pain.

Sitting in front of your computer or in the car all day, especially in a hunched or slouched position, increases pressure on disks in the spine. This can cause the spine’s supporting muscles and ligaments to degenerate sooner. This can lead to back pain and may worsen herniated disks or pinched nerves.

As you can see, mothers really do know best as they stress the importance of sitting up straight and keeping the shoulders back. With this general information I hope it has made you more aware of your posture, good or bad. If you have acquired good posture strive to maintain it. If you know you have bad posture, put forth the effort to make the changes necessary for prevention of health issues mentioned here. Remember, “An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!”


Teresa Roberts is owner of Masterpiece Fitness, and a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, WaterArt Instructor, Water Rehabilitation Specialist, Sports Conditioning Specialist, and Cancer Exercise Specialist. Please check out her website @ masterpiecefitness.com. Find Masterpiece Fitness on Facebook. For questions, comments, or appointments, email: teresa.roberts888@gmail.com, or phone 276-236-8748, (cell) 276-237-6680.