What is Good Posture and How do We Get it?

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We all recognize bad posture when we see it, but many of us have a tough time getting into a good posture. So what is good posture and how do we get it?

Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. If everything is just right, it requires minimal muscular and mental effort to maintain. Posture helps use the joints in proper alignment to reduce wear and allows the muscles to function efficiently preventing fatigue. Normally, we do not consciously maintain posture. Instead, certain muscles do it for us, and we don’t even have to think about it. That’s called a habit and of course there are good and bad habits.

Several muscle groups, including the hamstrings and large back muscles, are critically important in maintaining good posture. To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. Unfortunately, if you’ve spent a few years hunched over a laptop or an iPhone you’ve probably picked up some bad postural habits. If you have toddlers, check out how great their posture is and try to mimic it.

Several factors contribute to poor posture: stress, self-image, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles and abnormally tight muscles. In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning. Contorting your body into a new good posture is something you’re not used. This means it can be very challenging and requires training and exercise. Since you’ve had your current posture for a long time, don’t expect it to change overnight, but do start to notice it and correct it when you can. Eventually, you’ll learn new habits.

How to sit properly:

  • Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.
  • Don’t cross your 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 your low- and mid-back or use a back support.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

How to stand properly:

  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.
  • Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward.
  • Tuck your stomach in.
  • Keep your head level-your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Do not push your head forward, backward, or to the side.

Our doctors at LGCWC get asked regularly if we can change someone’s posture. Truthfully, change has to happen with the individual. We can give you exercises and advice, but the only person that can follow you around all day and keep tabs on your posture is you. With practice, exercise and patience you can learn new postural habits. Eventually they will become as easy and second-natured as the current habits you have. Quick, take a look at how you’re sitting right now and see if it meets the criteria above. Were you sitting that way before you read this? Check again in an hour!

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