Did your mom tell you to stand up straight when you were a kid?
Well mom was onto something there. Typically, poor posture is related to lack of exercise (or improper exercise), incorrect body mechanics, prolonged sitting or standing (especially on poor flooring or with poor footwear), a sedentary lifestyle, muscular imbalances and/or lack of flexibility. Other reasons include medical conditions and injuries. Poor posture can even occur due to stress (think how your shoulders and neck tense up when you are stressed…it impacts your posture).
So what does good posture look like? Here are the basic characteristics:
The head is balanced: the chin does not protrude forward
The chest lifts up slightly
Shoulders are level
Upper back is not rounded
Stomach does not protrude
There is the natural curve in the lower spine (not an excessive arch or unusually flat)
Hips are level and are in line with the shoulders
Hands are by the sides with the palms facing each other
Knees are not locked up and knee caps face forward
Feet are facing forward
Lets look at why good posture is important and examine two typical examples of poor posture and what can be done to improve them.
Good posture is an important part of good health because it improves how your muscles move and feel. You will feel, breathe and move better and you will decrease your chance of injury. Here are two common types of poor posture and some general ideas about what can be done to correct them.
Kyphosis: Characterised by a rounded upper back, hunched shoulders, protruding chin and hands in front of the thighs with the palms turned back. Long periods of sitting can contribute to this type of postural imbalance. What can you do? Strengthen the upper back and neck muscles and stretch the chest and front shoulder muscles.
Lordosis: Characterised by a swayed back (over-arching) and protruding stomach. Long periods of standing (in poor form) and being overweight can contribute to this type of postural imbalance. What can you do? Strengthening the core muscles: focus on abdominals and pelvic muscles.
Poor posture does not necessarily fall into one of these two categories. There are many types of postural imbalances and quite often an individual will show characteristics of more than one poor postural type. It is best to discuss your specific postural imbalances with a health and fitness professional: they will be able to give you a proper analysis and recommend more specific exercises to help correct it.