Posture Patch Up: Four Steps to Get You Standing Tall

You may not think your posture has a great influence on your wellbeing, but there are many benefits to walking tall and sitting pretty. Not only does the right posture help your weight loss wellness by making you look 10 pounds lighter, good posture conveys confidence, poise and leadership – which can help in the workplace – and can cause you to look 10 years younger. In fact, proponents of good posture even extend to fitness experts such as Certified Personal Trainer Glenn Kent, PhD, who has developed some simple exercises and stretches to help you keep your shoulders back and your head high.


According to Kent, ‘Good posture results when the muscles of the body align properly, allowing for efficient movement. When your body’s muscles and joints are balanced and supported properly, you’re better able to perform everyday activities, such as squatting to pick up laundry or running down a flight of stairs efficiently.’ However, Kent points out, ‘Few of us exhibit good posture, let alone perfect posture. In fact, poor posture often develops so gradually that you may notice its symptoms (back and neck pain, tightness and stiffness, increased injury and losses in your normal range of motion) long before you notice your shoulders hunching over.’


But why is it so important to improve your posture? ‘When you are poorly aligned, the joints in your body (e.g. shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles) do not fit together properly,’ Kent explains. ‘This causes some muscles to work harder than others. Over time, those muscles become tense while the others weaken, creating muscular imbalances that slowly devolve into poor posture. As posture deteriorates further, joint movements become restricted and the differences between tense and weak muscles places greater stress on your joints, which then have to compensate. This causes pain, stiffness and loss of motion throughout the body. But fix these imbalances, and your posture (and the pain associated with it) will improve.’ So here are four steps to a better posture:


1. Strengthen Your Core: Kent asserts, ‘Good posture starts with a strong core, which includes the abdominals (both the rectus abdominals that form the “6-pack” and the deeper transverse abdominals below them), lower back, obliques and hips. Strong core muscles don’t just keep your back healthy and resistant to pain and injury; they also hold your body upright, improve balance and enable you to move your body with greater control and efficiency.’


2. Fix Your Rounded Shoulders: Although rounded shoulders are common, that is not to say that they are normal. It’s not natural to hunch over a computer or behind a wheel, but that is what most of us spend our days doing, and our posture suffers as a result. However, Kent has the answer. ‘You can improve your posture by strengthening the weak upper back muscles, while stretching tight muscles in the chest, shoulders, lats and hips,’ he says. ‘As the upper back becomes stronger and the chest becomes more flexible, the shoulders naturally pull back—a sign of improved posture.’


3. Neutralise Your Tilted Hips: ‘Look at your belt line,’ Kent instructs. ‘Wearing your regular [trousers] and a belt, when viewed from the side, the belt should be level all the way around the waist. If your belt line is higher in the back and lower in the front, you need to strengthen the weak muscles in your hamstrings, glutes and abs, while improving the flexibility of your thighs and hip flexors.’


4. Retract Your Forward Head: Kent notes, ‘Most people think of the back and shoulders as keys to good posture, but the position of your head and neck is just as important. When viewed from the side, your ears should be above your shoulders.’

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