What is the quickest way to make people squirm in their seat and then immediately sit to attention?
Just say one word….. POSTURE!
Has this ever happened to you at a seminar or conference?
Unfortunately, these immediate adjustments to one’s posture are generally short lived. I bet you have all walked past a mirror at some stage and seen yourself slouching … your immediate response is to stand tall and bring your shoulders back but… after a few more steps you slowly slide back into your usual position as the outside world floods your mind with distractions.
I remember being constantly reminded, during my teen years, to stand up straight but I think most of my friends were just like me …totally oblivious to such comments.
As I grew older the poor habits stuck, and whilst I knew my posture was not exactly perfect, it was not until I became a physiotherapist that my posture finally began to improve. The reason it improved was not because I learnt how damaging poor posture could be, as I had heard this from teachers and health educators before, but it was because I learnt how improving posture could improve numerous other aspects of my life as well as to save pain in later life.
Good posture can enhance our self-confidence. How you stand and carry yourself has an impact on how you see yourself and your posture may also influence how others perceive you. Scientific evidence indicates that adopting better posture helps boost our self-confidence and gives us a more positive outlook on life. As an example: when I am in a situation where I don’t feel confident, if I respond by adopting better posture I can trick my brain into making me feel more confident. Check out Amy Cuddy's video on power poising if you need more convincing!
Good posture also directly effects our strength and flexibility- here is a quick example. I want you to hunch/round your shoulder forward and now in this position lift your arms up in front of you as far as you can. Now, bring your shoulder back and stand up tall… then lift your arms up. Hey presto you can reach up further. If we put this into a gym or exercise setting, having better posture will allow your body to work more efficiently enabling you to lift stronger weights and increase your flexibility.
Now I know what you might be saying, these things sound great but making a habit of improving my posture sounds like a lot of effort.
Well the good news is it doesn’t have to be! Here are 5 quick and easy tips to improve your posture.
1. Stand up and move– simply standing up and sitting back down is enough to reset your posture. When you stay seated for a long time you will find that you will slowly hunch further forwards with the help of gravity. Some simple prompts include:
- Place a post- it- note on your computer- don’t forget to move about
- Have an empty glass of water on your desk, so you have to walk to the kitchen to fill it up – double bonus you will also increase your water intake
- Set a timer on your phone or computer as an alarm to trigger some movement
- Make your desktop background a prompt for you to move.
2. Ensure your computer screen at the correct height – a screen too low will force your head to tilt down and place more strain on the back of your neck. The correct height of the computer screen is to have the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. This means that your eyes do the moving to look at the screen and not your neck.
3. Modify how you use your phone. Try using headphones to talk on your phone – especially if doing long business conversations. Have you seen people walking down the street with a phone to their ear and their neck in a really awkward position, or a person lying on the couch trying to hold the phone to their ear as they flick channels with the remote in other hand? Solution -the use of headphones will reduce strain on the neck.
4. Place equal weight on both feet. When sitting at your desk try to keep both feet on the ground, and when standing try to avoid hanging on one hip. Having your feet equally weighted and planted on the ground will help place you in better posture.
5. Consider the height of your pillow. Often neglected, your sleeping posture can have a significant impact on your health. The easiest fix to your sleep is making sure you have the correct height pillow, one that is supportive of neck’s curvature. If you want to learn more about sleeping posture then you can read here (insert hyperlink to blog http://www.bjchealth.com.au/blog-fitness/pillow-talk-for-neck-pain-and-better-sleep)
Start with choosing one aspect of your posture to change or work on. You could even choose something as simple as making the habit of checking your posture in the mirror before you leave the house. There are many small actions you can take to improve your posture, and you will find once you make one small change other aspects of your posture will change too.
So start small and stand tall!