As you read this article, take note of your posture. Are you sitting up straight or slouching like I am while writing it? Slouching is defined as sitting, standing, or walking with your shoulders hunched. This position puts extra strain on our muscles, and can lead to tension, fatigue, and lasting poor posture.
Everyone is susceptible to poor posture and its effects. Mobile phones and computers have become such an integral part of our lives that our postures have adapted to using them. Other causes are wearing thin high heels, carrying heavy bags, or standing or sitting for long periods. Bad posture is both the cause and effect of imbalanced distribution of weight across the body’s musculoskeletal system, which can be damaged over time. Back, neck, and shoulder pain are commonly associated with poor posture, which - when not corrected - can develop into additional serious health issues…
Each of our organs has its specific location with enough space to function properly. Compression from bad posture can restrict this, potentially leading to decreased effectiveness and health problems.
Sitting in the same position for hours can take a toll on your circulatory system and heart health. I experienced this first hand when, after repeated slouching and minimal movement, I had palpitations and tingling sensations in areas of my body from nerve compression.
Good posture is key for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. The vagus nerve, responsible for digestion and heart rate, can be put under pressure and malfunction when posture is misaligned. How we stand, sit, lie down, and move can have a big impact on stomach and intestine function. Malnutrition can occur even when someone is well fed, due to poor posture and the consequent malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Other digestive issues related to poor posture include acid reflux, constipation, and hernias.
Poor posture can also cause insufficient lung expansion, triggering respiratory issues such as breathlessness and inadequate transportation of oxygen to the rest of the body.
Most posture-related problems are reversible through basic lifestyle changes and exercises. If necessary, consult a physiotherapist or an orthopaedic specialist for specific interventions for your body.
Here are some tips for daily activities:
At your desk
- Keep your back straight and neutral, not leaning forward or back
- Ensure that your feet are flat on the floor, with your eyes level with the computer screen
- Position your buttocks to touch the back of the chair
- Relax your shoulders down - don’t tense up or pull back too far
- Get up and move frequently
- Invest in ergonomic furniture or lumbar support for your back
- Stand tall and do not lean backward
- Look straight ahead, rather down at your feet (which can stress your upper back and neck)
- Hold your shoulders down, back, and relaxed
- Step lightly to reduce impact on your joints
- Invest in the right shoes for your foot type
Behind the wheel
- Support your back by sliding back as close as possible to the seat, and using lumbar support or a cushion if necessary
- Lift your hips by adjusting your seat to support your thighs and increase circulation to your back
- Adjust the mirror to your eye level for neck comfort
General tips for…
- Stretch regularly for muscle flexibility
- Exercise to boost muscle strength
- Stretch your neck muscles by turning your head from one side to another
- Always cross your legs at the ankle, rather than at the knee
- Avoid soft, spongy chairs
- Always support your back
- Choose a mattress that will keep your spine straight when lying on your side
- Sleep on an ergonomic pillow that supports your neck
- Use your thigh muscles to maintain a straight back when lifting heavy weights
Improving your posture is an ongoing journey that will leave you feeling refreshed in body and mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mpho Masenya is a passionate writer, communicator, and advocate for basic nutrition education.