Straight talk on crooked posture

Standing up tall may sometimes feel
like the hardest thing to do. The daily activities we engage in often wreck
havoc on our posture – sitting at a computer all day or behind the wheel of a
car or lifting heavy objects (like kids) can contribute to poor posture  for even the strongest of individuals.

Correcting posture is a process of
strengthening muscles that are weak and stretching those which are too tight –
basically retraining your body to function at its optimal and most effective

Even small, simple changes can make
the biggest difference. For example, sitting at a desk all day with your
shoulders rolling forward can cause tightness in the chest and weakness along
the back. Try sliding your shoulder blades in and slightly down to the hips.
Can you start to feel the muscles working back there?

Improving posture at your desk is
important for maintaining physical health, especially if you sit at a desk
eight to 10 hours a day.

Ignoring good posture at work could
cause you to develop a ‘surgeon’s hump” which leads to pain, fatigue and other
illnesses associated with the spine.

Your abdominal muscles and back
muscles work to keep the body erect, serving to balance each other’s pull.
Hunching forward while sitting in a chair alters this balance and takes a toll
on your posture. Learning how to sit in a desk chair is essential for keeping
good posture.

Another important element in good
posture is your “core” or the centre of your body. This encompasses the area
from your neck to your hips, involving the muscles along both the front and
back of the body. Try to think of this area as your power house. If you are
strong and powerful through the centre, the rest of your body will feel
stronger as well.

When standing, proper posture
involves keeping the body in alignment, so that the pull of gravity is evenly
distributed. Good posture includes a straight line, running through your ears,
shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Your head is centred between your shoulders,
and your shoulders, hip and knees are of equal height.

To figure out if you have good
posture, take the following posture test:

Stand with the back of your head
touching the wall and your heels six inches from the baseboard. With your
bottom touching the wall, stick your hand between your lower back and the wall,
and then between your neck and the wall. If you can get within an inch or two
towards the wall at your lower back and two inches at the neck, you are close
to having excellent posture.

There are a few simple things you
can do to help correct your posture. Make a conscious effort to think about how
you are sitting, standing, lifting or walking. Try not to stay in one position
too long.

If you are sitting all day, get up
every hour for a stretch or a walk to the water cooler. Shift your body or
adjust your chair every so often.

And relax! Most people carry the
majority of their tension in their shoulders and neck, so relax your shoulders
down away from your ears.

If you were to stop yourself every
10 minutes at your desk or while driving, you would probably find that your
shoulders are tense and shrugged up towards your ears. Relax them down.

Good posture improves your health
and appearance. Standing straight makes you look thinner and taller, and gives
you more confidence.

 You may spend hours hunched over the computer
or desk, which creates rounded shoulders and a slouchy frame, as well as many
painful knots in your neck and back. Aligning your posture will help you look
and feel better, increasing your self-esteem and lessening any physical pain.

Whether you make small changes in
the way you sit in a chair, to how you lift heavy objects or how you engage in
physical activity to strengthen your core, like Pilates, make perfect posture a

Deanna Smith is an Exercise Physiologist at ENERGY. She can be contacted
[email protected] or 946-6006.

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