Did you know that...

… hunching causes the rib cage to contract. As a result, vital organs are being squashed. For example, the lungs' surface reduces, causing the amount of oxygen that reaches the body to reduce too. As the starved of oxygen body demands more of it, the heart starts to beat faster. This causes it to work harder in performing its bodily functions. The result is greater wear and tear. When the brain is short of oxygen, it starts to shut down its important functions, such as memory, concentration and ability to learn. Other aspects of physical or academic performance may suffer too.
… poor body posture puts a strain on your spine, which may result in back pain and flabby back muscles that are too weak to support your spine, thus causing you to hunch even more.
… poor body posture habits over a period of time may result in permanent damage to your spine, sticking out shoulder blades, flattening of the chest cavity and ultimately, a noticeable rounding of the upper back or a hump.

Straighten up! Good Posture Can Rapidly Improve Your Health

The aim of most of us in today’s society is to develop a healthy and attractive body. To achieve physical fitness, we focus on our diet, water intake, exercise and any of a number of systems for generating physical change. In the race to get fitter, however, there is one element which often goes overlooked – our body posture.

Posture affects not only the way we look, but also the way we feel and how healthy we are. Without a good body posture, even with the best of diet and regular exercise, the image is one of sickness. Remarkably, unlike diet and exercise however, the benefits of improved body posture are instantaneous.

How does good posture benefit you?

• A good body posture allows your organs and muscles to function at their best. This ensures that you enjoy high levels of energy and endurance.

• A healthy posture helps improve your breathing. More oxygen reaches your lungs and every other organ in your body, including the brain. You are then better able to concentrate; your memory and mental ability improve instantaneously.

• A straight back and strong back muscles contribute to a flatter and stronger stomach.

• A good posture gives you an improved body image, greater confidence and a feeling of well-being. It creates an impression of competence, vigour and youthfulness.

• There is no build-up of fatigue in your neck, shoulders and back at the end of a long day at work or a long drive.

• A healthy body posture dramatically reduces (or eliminates altogether) lower and upper back pain.

What does good body posture involve?

For best body posture, draw a mental line from your earlobe, through the middle of your shoulder, your hip joint and finishing at a point roughly an inch in front of the ankle joint, then line your body accordingly. Keep your shoulders back and down, with the chin and chest slightly up and your stomach tucked slightly in.

Weak postural muscles will gradually strengthen over time and tight ones will stretch to make good body posture automatic.

How to develop healthy body posture?

According to physical therapist Darlene Pope, “good posture is the maintenance of the normal curvatures of the spine”. A correctly lined up spine greatly benefits the rest of your body structure, as well as your appearance. To achieve this, Prime Health & Fitness gives the following tips:

• Never sleep on your stomach

• Use a firm mattress

• When you sit, align your shoulders vertically over your hips. Do not cross your legs at the thighs

• Sit symmetrically, so that the pressure is the same on both hips

We spend much of our day sitting – driving to and from work, at work, in front of the television, surfing the net. It is therefore very important that you keep good body posture when sitting. Awareness of how you sit must be complemented by the right physical surroundings to promote good spine alignment. It is recommended that:

• The seat height of your chair is adjusted to match the length of your lower legs, so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor

• The width of your seat is wider than your buttocks to give you adequate support

You must also take regular breaks between tasks, including getting out of your chair and taking a walk every now and then.

Posture can also be adjusted during sleep. Therapists advise placing a pillow between your knees and a small rolled towel at the curve of your neck, if you sleep on you side, or a pillow under your knees, if you sleep on your back. Sleeping on your stomach is to be avoided.

And remember, the fastest way to improve your health and appearance is to pay attention to your posture. So straighten up and get it right!