Do you think you would look better if you could just lose ten pounds? Are you plagued by back pain? A sore neck? Headaches? Have you been shocked by how rounded over you look in photographs? Do you think you look older than your years? Would you like to look ten years younger?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can make a big difference in your health and your appearance by simply improving your posture.
If you are not currently happy with your posture, you have a lot of company. Bad posture is so common because many of us sit too much, exercise too little, and have habits like hanging our heads forward over our desks, computers and other handwork, and carrying heavy purses and briefcases always on the same side of our bodies.
Have no fear. Even after years of bad posture, it is never too late. You can turn things around. It is really just a matter of becoming aware of what your posture problems are and then strengthening the muscles that will correct alignment.
For inspiration, let’s start by taking a closer look at the benefits you’ll reap.
LOOK TEN POUNDS THINNER
Simply by standing up straighter than you do now, you will instantly slim your waistline by an inch or more. Check it out! Place a cloth measuring tape around your waist and assume your normal stance. Now lift up your rib cage slightly, as if a string attached to your breastbone were pulling it toward the ceiling. With your rib cage lifted slightly, you’ll see how much tighter you can pull the tape –as much as 1-2”.
LOOK TEN YEARS YOUNGER
A study in Louisville, Kentucky, showed how posture affects perceptions of age and beauty. Two women, both five foot four inches, one weighing 105 pounds and the other 125, were asked to put on leotards and cover their faces. Side view pictures were taken of each woman with normal and slumping posture. Then sixty people were asked to look at the pictures and rate the women’s appearances. When the women stood up straight, viewers consistently described them as younger and more attractive. In fact, the upright 125-pound woman was rated more favorably than the slumping 105-pound woman.
Nothing ages you faster than a shrinking, stooped posture. A strong, straight spine portrays youth and vigor. Slumping forward decreases your chest measurement, rounds and narrows your shoulders, and can decrease your height by as much as two inches.
Psychological studies have shown that a person with good posture exudes health, vitality, and confidence–while slouching signals insecurity, weakness, and self-doubt. Consciously or not, we tell the world a lot about our mental and emotional state by the way we stand, sit, move, and carry ourselve
Improving your posture can help you build self-esteem, radiate confidence and capability, interview well for jobs, and improve work performance (particularly in sales or business). Other people will see you with a new eye. Good posture shows the world you respect yourself. This commands respect from others.
IMPROVE YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AND DECREASE CHANCE OF INJURY
Because poor posture causes your joints to no longer fit together properly, when you work out or play sports, the chance is greatly increased that you will injure your neck, shoulder, upper back, lower back, hips, and knees. Good posture reduces the chance of injury, muscle strain, and aches; helps you move more easily, gracefully, and powerfully; and gives your lungs more room so you have a greater breathing capaci
PREVENT BACK PAIN
Most important, good posture can prevent a lifetime of annoying and painful back and neck problems. Poor posture is the leading cause of back pain.
Ever caught your own reflection in a window or mirror to see that your head doesn’t sit directly over your shoulders? Or that your upper back is too slumped forward? Or that your belly muscles just hang out? These are all common posture problems. When posture is poor, your joints no longer fit together the way they’re supposed to. If joints are poorly aligned, even common, everyday activities cause uneven wear and tear, resulting in friction, pain, irritation, and osteoarthritis.
When the spine is lined up correctly, the muscle groups that support it are in balance. When the slight natural curves in the spine become exaggerated, some muscles are put in a stretched position all day causing them to continually weaken. Other muscles are contracted all day and become too tight and tense. Poor posture causes some muscles to overwork while others don’t work at all. Gradually, the muscles lose their ability to support the body correctly, and posture becomes even worse.
If the lower back arches too much, pressure on the joints and the nerves that pass between them can cause dull aches or stabbing, burning pain anywhere from the waist to the tip of the big toe. A head that hangs forward, even slightly, exaggerates the curve in the upper part of the spine and can cause chronic back pain, a stiff or sore neck, or tingling or numbness in the arms and hands. The head-forward position is also a common cause of tension headaches, the most common kind of headache.
When properly aligned, your body moves with ease and comfort. The muscles in the front and back of your body work together harmoniously and you will look and feel better.
TOTAL POSTURE IMPROVEMENT EXERCISE Strengthens all the muscles that support good posture
- Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Place arms at sides in a forty-five degree angle to the torso.
- Make sure your palms are facing up, otherwise, your shoulder joints are not aligned.
- Inhale. As you exhale, pull your abdominals in, which will ease the lower back closer to the floor. Don’t force anything.
- Next, press your mid-back into the floor, then your upper back. Think of gently pressing your whole spine into the floor.
- Now press the back of your shoulders into the floor. As you do this, you should feel every muscle in your back contract.
- Hold for a count of ten without holding your breath, and then relax. Repeat.
BACK MUSCLE RELAXATION MOVEMENT (Do after performing the Total Posture Improvement Exercise)
- Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet flat.
- Clasp your hands and stretch your arms towards ceiling.
- Draw big, easy circles with your clasped hands–five times in one direction and then five times in the other.
- Breathe normally.