My mother and grandmother would routinely bug me about my horrible slouching when I was younger. A shy and nerdy kid, I never took their good-natured advice to heart. Hence, I’ve always had the slumped, “low self-esteem” look.
As it turns out, bad posture doesn’t just affect your outward image. Our bodies grow accustomed to the positions we put them in, eventually causing muscle fibers to shorten or stiffen. Many people who complain about back, neck, or shoulder pains may just be suffering from poor posture.
Incorrect posture may arise from a number of factors, including carrying heavy schoolbags, poor reading habits, or even lack of self-esteem. This was the case for me – and it caused a good deal of back pain in my early adulthood.
The harmful effects of slouching
Bad posture affects both your mental and physical well-being. Here are just some of the ways that incorrect posture can impact your mind and body.
1. It adversely affects hormones.
Did you know that posture influences hormone production? Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, may be released as a response to a slumped position. Conversely, endorphins, also called “happy hormones”, may be produced as a response to a straight, confident stance.
2. It may cause digestive problems.
Slouching puts pressure on the abdomen, causing heartburn or acid reflux especially after a meal. In addition, constipation and incontinence, and bowel and bladder problems may also result from incorrect posture.
3. It lessens the efficacy of weight lifting exercises.
Weight lifting focuses on form to target certain muscle groups. If the body is in poor form from the start, weights won’t work as well as they should. In fact, physical therapists discourage weight lifting while the body is out of alignment, as it can cause unnecessary strain on muscles.
Correcting posture: Stretch, strengthen, and straighten
Posture correction usually involves stretching out the tight upper chest and strengthening the weaker upper back. Simple yoga stretches, such as the child’s pose and cat cow pose, can help to elongate the spine and relieve tense muscles. Pilates movements certainly helped me improve my posture over the years.
Be sure to consult a physical therapist. Professionals typically use certain tests to figure out which part of your body is misaligned before they move on to helping you correct it. Nowadays, many physical therapists work from home, so you can still get the help you need even during quarantine.
If you spend several hours of your day sitting in front of your laptop for hours on end, you may want to start considering posture correcting exercises. That hunched-over position will begin to change the shape of your muscles if you don’t take proper measures to correct it.
The benefits of good posture go deeper than a simple confidence boost. Consider this – good posture may be another step you make towards a healthier lifestyle.