Sit and Stand Up Straight – There Are Good Reasons for It

Written by: Teresa Grant, PT

Remembering back when you were a youngster, how many times did our mother tell you to stand up straight? Or, as I have done with my daughters, you got the nudge right between the shoulder blades. And almost as quickly as you pulled your shoulders back, they seem to have slid right back to your previous posture.

Good posture is important for a number of reasons.

  1. It affects our BP, pulse, lung capacity and blood flow to our internal organs.
  2. Since the "thigh bone is connected to the knee bone" etc., being out of alignment can result in muscle fatigue under abnormal loads
    -it affects our mood, our confidence, and our looks.
  3. Our head with the brain weighs 10-11 lb. It is approximately the weight of a bowling ball. The head is meant to sit between our shoulders with our eyes level on the horizon. As our head drifts forward on our body, spinal tissues are subject to an increased load that over a sustained period start to deform. Our tissues adapt to this new position by shortening on the back of our neck and the muscles on the front of the neck get weak from being overstretched.

How heavy is your head?

Another area of our body where this push/pull occurs is in our upper back. Our shoulders start to drift forward and we hunch over. Over time the soft tissue on our chest shortens and the muscles that help keep up upright get overstretched and weak.

Some common contributors to developing poor posture are backpacks. Some children’s packs weigh 30#. Other culprits include the amount of time we spend on a computer, phone texting, playing video games or TV watching.

Solutions can be lightening those backpacks, positioning your computer so that the top one third of the screen is even with your eyes and sitting in a chair with your back supported for the video games and TV viewing.

Simple Exercises and Imagery

Imagine a string attached to the top of your head that is pulling you up to the ceiling/sky. You should feel your spine straighten; your head come back between your shoulders and your rib cage lift off your abdomen. Take a few deep breaths while you’re there and fill your lungs deeply.

Good Posture vs Bad Posture

If you're sitting, every 20-30 minutes, sit up straight, pull your neck and head back over your shoulders. Hold for the count of 3 and repeat 15-20 times.

When you're standing, stand against the wall and move your head back until it touches the wall. Keep your eyes on the horizontal (your chin should not be up in the air). Hold for a 3 count and repeat 20-25 times.

While you are on the wall, lift your arms out to your sides. Keeping your arms on the wall, raise them overhead like making a wall (snow) angel. Repeat movement for one minute.

Now turn and face the wall, close enough that your nose almost touches the wall. Place your arms overhead on the wall with your elbows straight. Alternate lifting one arm from the wall and then lift the other. You are wall swimming.

Good posture pays off in many ways and influences your health. Be persistent in your efforts. Every time you find yourself slouching, remember what your mother said, “Pull your shoulders back” or get ready for the nudge.