Updated: Jan 12, 2021
I preach posture all day every day. Sometimes, I don't really feel like a physical therapist as much as I do a posture coach, because so much of treatment boils down to habits and posture. But I've realized a lot of people don't really understand the importance of good posture and how to achieve it throughout the day.
So what does good posture look and feel like?
If you were to take the most ideal posture in its purest form, you would see a direct line starting at the back of your ear and extending through the top of your shoulder, down to the outside of your hip bone, knee joint and the outside ankle. If you look at a picture of a body diagram in pretty much any textbook, they have this kind of posture.
Now, I have to add a disclaimer by saying that NO ONE on this planet has perfect posture...not even me. And I have crowned myself the posture police. So keep in mind that it can't necessarily be perfected, but it can be practiced.
The importance of posture
1. I've stated time and time again that static postures locked in for a duration longer than 30 minutes will cause muscle metamorphosis. This leads to muscle breakdown because, when you try to sit up or change postures, your muscles will have shortened. Worse, when you try to perform fitness activities, there is an increased risk of injury.
2. POSTURE IS THE NUMBER 1 KILLER FOR THE ELDERLY. Ok, now that I have your attention, I should say I can't state this as a fact. Really PNEUMONIA is...but I'm going to tell you how pneumonia and posture are linked. Slouch over your keyboard and try to take a deep breath. What you should experience is that you aren't able to take in a full breath up to the top and bottom of your lungs. This then evidences that, over a long period of time, the air in your lungs can start to stagnate. Stagnant air plus the moist, hot environment that your lungs create proves to be the ideal breeding ground for nasty viruses and bacteria. Oh yes! The kind that can kill you if left untreated. So, stop slouching now to potentially save yourself from a nasty case of pneumonia or something worse...
What can you do about posture?
The answer is simple! Be active and mindful about improving your posture! If you've watched any of our Youtube videos or read other blogs on our site, you know that we've got tons of exercises and stretches that can start making some change.
Also, be mindful of your feet placement. Consider the bottom of your feet as having three points: one at your heel and two on the inside and outside of the balls of your feet. Try to evenly distribute your weight on this triangle with one-third of your weight over each point. Most people have actually learned to stand on the balls of their feet which forces their calves to work harder. Think of wearing high heels for example. So although those heels look super cute, it might be time to trade them in for flats or limit the time you spend in them.
Many of us also walk hunched over and basically fall forward to have our feet catch us. Moreover, more people initial their gait pattern by throwing their momentum forward and walking on the ball of their feet, or by shuffling and landing flat on their feet. When you walk, remember, proper posture dictates striking your heel first and moving in a pattern towards your toes. The correct way is to transfer that energy length-wise from the back of your foot to the front. This will, in turn, create a strong mechanical force to keep your posture aligned and upright. In essence, your legs will be helping your trunk "glide" through the environment versus "bulldozing" through it. Walking with correct form will strengthen and stretch the correct muscles naturally. There's a reason experts have recommended 10,000 steps per day - equivalent to about 5-6 miles - of WALKING.
Here's a suggestion: try walking briskly on the treadmill for 10 minutes focusing on extending your stride and sticking with your heel first. You'll feel most of your muscles loosen up and your posture improve immediately.
Work on your posture every single day. It's really as easy as putting 15 minutes in daily.
Change that static computer posture and every up at LEAST every 30 minutes.
Walk with longer strides and focus on heel striking
Ditch the bad footwear
Remember, we heal smarter, not harder!
Dr. Justin C. Lin