From slouching at desks, to hunching over smartphones, to sleeping in unsupportive positions, there are all sorts of everyday activities that can cause poor posture. While you may not pay much attention to the way in which you sit, stand or sleep on a daily basis, these habits can put undue pressure on your muscles, joints and ligaments and have a detrimental impact on your wellbeing. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to stave off these health problems and reduce your risk of injury. Read on to find out more about how you can maintain a healthy posture.
Whether it’s rounding your shoulders, tilting your hips forward or leaning on one leg, we’re all guilty of having bad standing posture from time to time. Although this might not be an immediate cause for concern, over time, incorrect standing positions can cause all sorts of aches, pains and muscle imbalances in the back, neck, shoulders and buttocks. In some cases, it can lead to musculoskeletal conditions and long-term health problems like chronic back pain.
To ensure that you are standing properly, there are a few simple checks you can do in front of a mirror. For example, your head and neck should be held up straight, your shoulders should be parallel with your hips and your pelvis should be tucked in. You should also make sure that your body weight is spread evenly over both legs and that your knees are relaxed. As well as making a conscious effort to stand and walk correctly, try to avoid being static for long periods of time, as this can increase the chance of your body becoming tired and slouching. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable, supportive shoes, avoid carrying heavy bags on one shoulder and to not look down at your phone too often.
There are also a number of corrective exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in your core to help you achieve good posture. For example, many people find that yoga and pilates are effective at making the muscles stronger and more flexible. Doing bridges, lunges and the plank can also help build core strength.
When sitting down for long periods of time, your natural tendency is probably to slump down in your chair – especially if you work in a job that requires you to sit at a desk for most of the day. While slouching may seem comfortable initially, it could be more harmful than you think. After a while, sitting this way can put added strain on your back and overstretch the muscles and ligaments that support your spine. This increased pressure can cause muscular pain in the neck, shoulders, arms and legs and, in severe cases, damage the vertebra.
To prevent these problems, it’s important that you get into the habit of sitting up straight. When sitting in a chair, your knees should be level with your hips or sloping down slightly with both your feet flat on the floor. Your neck and head should be held upright with your shoulders slightly dropped and held back. Try to avoid crossing your legs or sitting to one side in your chair, as this can cause muscle imbalances. Bear in mind that sitting in the same place for too long can make postural problems worse, so don’t forget to move around as much as possible and take regular breaks to stretch your legs.
You may also want to consider investing in ergonomically designed chairs to encourage you to sit properly. Ideally, chairs should be adjustable, relieve pressure on the spine and support the natural curve of the back. If you work in an office job, make sure your workstation is properly set up to prevent hunching and overstretching your muscles.
Chances are, you probably haven’t given much thought to the way in which you sleep at night. However, did you know that your preferred position could be causing you all kinds of aches and pains and having an adverse effect on your overall health? If you wake up feeling fatigued, sore or stiff, you may need to consider changing your sleeping posture.
While there is no set rule as to which sleeping position is best, you should be lying in a way that supports your spine, neck and shoulders. If you like to sleep on your side, try placing a pillow in between your legs to prevent your body from twisting and straining your lower back and pelvis. If you sleep on your back, having your knees slightly raised can help to keep your back and neck in a neutral position. For people who sleep on their stomach, adding a pillow under the hips can reduce tension in the back, neck and shoulders (although healthcare experts recommend that you avoid sleeping on your stomach altogether if you can). To make this easier, you may want to consider investing in an adjustable bed that can enable you to adjust your position for maximum comfort without having to use pillows.
Having the right pillow and mattress is also crucial when it comes to promoting healthy posture. Your pillow needs to be the right size and thickness to keep your head and spine aligned, while your mattress should be supportive and reduce pressure on your body. Memory foam mattresses are a popular choice as they are firm but also mould to the shape of your body.
Of course, these are just some examples of the techniques you can use to improve the way you carry your body on a daily basis. While correcting your posture may feel uncomfortable at first as your muscles are not used to supporting your body in this way, there are many lifelong benefits that will make it worth it in the end. By making a conscious effort to keep your body in a balanced alignment while you sit, stand and sleep, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make to your overall health and wellbeing.