At least once in our lives we’ve been told, “Back straight! Shoulders back!” as a way of correcting our poor posture. However, proper back health and correct posture is more than that. Good posture and a good back also have a lot more to offer us than the appearance of confidence. Whether you’re a fitness pro, an athlete or someone who’s just keen on making sure they’re in good shape, not enough importance is placed on having a strong back.
We take our backs for granted every day. All day, we hop from one seat to another–the car, the bus, the train, the office, the couch, the bed. The times we do get to walk, we’re probably balancing a heavy handbag or backpack or not noticing that we’re slouching as we’re in a rush. The matter of “good” and “bad” posture is not entirely simple. In fact, according to experts, there are five types of postures:
- Kyphosis is where the head is in forward position and the shoulders and upper back are rounded.
- Lordosis involves an exaggerated lumbar (lower back) curve with the shoulders pulled back too slightly.
- Sway back is when the body is actually tilting backwards.
- Forward head posture is where the head and cervical spine shift forward.
- Correct posture is when the shoulders and hips are aligned and the ear aligns with the shoulder down to the hip and ankle bone.
Now, you’re probably wondering how is it you can be mindful whether your ears and and hips and ankle bones are perfectly aligned at all times? Achieving correct posture seems like a tricky balancing act, but it’s achievable. When standing with good posture, you should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee and the middle of your ankle. Meanwhile, good sitting posture means having your back straight and buttocks at the back of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at a right angle.
The most common reason we’re given when advised to fix our posture is that it will make us look more attractive and confident. Of course, attraction and confidence don’t lie solely on physical appearance, but there is value in this. Non-verbal cues make up 85 percent of everyday communication, so even when you’re feeling unsure, you can at least make it seem like you are with the simple act of correcting your posture.
Your posture impacts your strength, no matter how much training you undergo. When we slump or slouch, the shoulder stabilisers fail and the chest and core drop. Even our breathing is affected by posture. Good posture opens the airways in our bodies, allowing for enhanced oxygen flow. This is why exercises such as yoga, Pilates and meditation place a lot of emphasis on breathing and posture. When you breath properly, you increase your concentration and thinking abilities as well. The more oxygen we get, the better.
The course to correcting your posture involves both physical and mental strategies. You may practice back-strengthening exercises at the gym, but keeping your posture in check whether you’re at work, play or rest requires a little more attention.