We rang in 2014 with a feature on ways to improve your posture, but we all agree that it’s good to have a little reminder. Here are five additional tips to stand up a little straighter—and keep good posture even while sleeping!
By Danielle Dunn, Director, MBA, B.A, ACE, Hilton Head Health Fitness, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Poor posture can take a serious toll on many parts of your body, including your knees, shoulders, hips, back, and spine, causing joint and lower back pain. The way you hold yourself has a significant effect on how body weight is distributed. Poor posture additionally reduces flexibility and limits the ability to develop strength. However, following these five simple tips will help realign your posture, relieve tension, and increase mobility.
1. Avoid Slouching
Slouching (improper posture) detracts from the natural center of gravity and also opposes the spine’s natural curve, causing increased disc pressure and strain to the lower back. Practice walking, sitting, and standing as if you are trying to balance a book on your head. Your head derives most movement, therefore when you drop your head, your shoulders tend to follow, dropping inward and forward, following your head’s motion. Imagining a book on your head keeps the head aligned and posture more upright.
2. Think String
Imagine a string running from your ears to your shoulders to your hips. Keep that string in a vertical line. Maintaining this alignment will release tension in your neck and back muscles, improve balance, and realign the spine.
3. How Do You Sleep?
Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night is healthy—that’s a third to a quarter of your entire day, right? Do you pay attention to what position your body is in before going to sleep? Do you provide the best posture while in bed? A few things to keep in mind: First a firm mattress and pillow are highly recommended, providing proper back and cervical spine support. The best position is on your back with a pillow under your knees, keeping the shoulders straight on top of the hips and the lumbar spine (lower back) relaxed. If you sleep on your side, slipping a pillow between your knees is recommended to keep the spine more aligned. Sleep like you would stand—if you wouldn’t stand in that position for seven to nine hours, then sleeping for the same amount of time in that position is not appropriate either.
Our bodies were not designed to sit all day long. Give yourself movement breaks: take walks, stand up, or stretch your body throughout your day to keep blood flowing (blood carries oxygen to our body to keep all our parts alive).
Make yourself more aware throughout the day of how you are holding your body. Notice your posture—how do you sit/stand/lie down? Give yourself a visual reminder; maybe that’s a rubber band, or string around your wrist. Every time you look at it think of your posture. Visual reminders are a great way to help increase awareness, creating a new healthy habit.