‘Sit up straight! Don’t slouch!’
I’m sure most of us have heard those words from well-meaning parents at some point during our childhood. As annoying as their nagging may have been, Mum and Dad were probably right.
The effects of poor posture during childhood can continue into your adult life and lead to many problems including increased fatigue, tight muscles and joint stiffness. A lot of people are not aware that poor posture doesn’t just occur from not standing up straight. Poor postural habits can happen when sitting at a desk, driving in your car, sleeping in contorted positions or when performing other activities of daily living. As you can see, good posture is needed throughout the day and night.
So what is good posture? Ideally, good posture is a position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting and lying down whereby the least amount of strain is placed on your body. To do this, our bones must be aligned and our muscles, joints, ligaments and organs also need to be in the correct position to function. If we do not maintain this good posture throughout the day we can find that we have greater strain on the neck and shoulder region, across the low back, as well as altered respiratory patterns and a decreased lung capacity.
Our number one tip for good posture when sitting or standing is to think straight, tall and effortless. We encourage you to 'imagine your head is like a helium balloon, lifting the rest of your body up and that it is weightless'. This one strategy will naturally allow your shoulders to fall 'down and back' effortlessly and help to maintain a neutral pelvic tilt, all without you having to think about it!
Below is a list of other hints for you to follow to help you achieve good posture whilst seated or standing.
Strategies for sitting
· Keep your feet on the floor, or on a footrest (if they don’t reach the floor).
· Don’t cross you legs. Your ankles should be in front of your knees.
· Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
· Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
· Adjust the backrest of your chair to support both your low and mid-back, or use a back support
· Relax your shoulders.
· Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Regular 'micro-breaks' are important to decrease load on the body.
Strategies for standing
· Bear your weight evenly between the balls of your feet and your heels.
· Keep your feet about shoulder width apart.
· Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.
· Keep your head level and earlobes in line with your shoulders
· If you have to stand for a long time shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other.