Stand up straight.
Your posture is bad.
Your head is too far forward.
You are slouching.
Bring your shoulders back.
We have heard all these comments and more. I am sure you have seen all the articles like this or this or that and even this one about posture and technology. There was a trend for a while using exercising balls as chairs. Standing desks and walking desks are a thing for those hunkered over their desk every day. Every day there are more gadgets you can wear and apps you can buy. This technology reminds you about your posture or pushes parts of your body in the direction of better posture and out of the position we have gotten accustomed to. I am not knocking on any of this because everyone is different and we all find value and benefit in different things.
We are able to usually “fix” it especially at the time someone tells us. Sometimes wellness facilities or online resources will have a posture class where they review standing up tall, and other “bad” ways of sitting and standing. Then once we are not really focused on it as more we go back to where we are comfortable. It’s our comfort zone.
Here are some things you may want to think about.
Q. How are you standing? What is your at-rest position when you are talking to someone or waiting in line at the store?
Do you see any difference between these three and those above?
The difference is the first top three are “sitting on their hip.” Specifically they all are sitting on their left hip. The bottom three are more evenly standing on both hips. Honestly I never really thought that much about it until a fellow trainer kept calling me out about how I was standing when I was training. How we stand when we are not really thinking about it is a place that we call home. We often get used to shifting to one side. It could be for many reasons. It could be because we are compensating for an injury or there is something going on further on down the body like a weaker knee. Of course, for those like me, I don’t really have an excuse. Many times we just feel more comfortable in a position that is not the best for our long term posture habits.
Because of his observation, I try to move a bit when training. Of course at other jobs or doing a virtual meeting moving a bit could be a bit harder or distracting to do. At that point, it could be just as subtle as shaking a foot out here and there to reset.
Idea: Try to reset your standing posture as subtle …or obvious as you can :).
Q. Your sitting or work posture aside…how is your workstation setup?
One thing you often hear about what your posture is when you are working and sitting. But have you thought about how your work setup is not fostering good posture? Click here to check out this great video by my friend Andy of Movement Reborn has some helpful thoughts about the work environment. You may enter your workstation or work area with the best intentions but the setup encourages less than optimal posture.
Idea: See if you can change your work environment so you have a better chance to practice more optimal posture.
Q: When you are exercising are you trying to introduce a more optimal posture when it is realistic?
The type of exercise here I am focusing on is more conventional exercise. It is not realistic for me to talk about proper form when doing activities such as when playing tennis, I will leave that to the tennis pros. (At the same time conventional exercise helps those tennis players excel at their sport!) In other words, our form is important when we perform conventional movements. Movement such as squats, core exercises like planks, or many other exercises that we do to help improve and maintain our health. Often you read articles or hear people state some fact that a certain exercise is bad for you. I have had people tell me that squats are bad for them. There are articles written about what exercises adults 50 years and up should not do. It is nuts. It is not the exercise most of the time…it is how the person is doing it or that exercise may not be the best for their body not everyone’s.
The thing is many times the individual is not practicing a better posture that is better for their body. Past or current injuries and chronic pain have to be understood when discussing someone’s posture. There are countless things written about how to do a squat. To really tailor that movement to your individual body it helps to have someone see how you move and your health history. After knowing about you as an individual, it can be possible for a fitness professional to show you a way to practice that better in an exercise situation.
When you practice it better in a controlled exercise situation (i.e the gym or at home) it can lead to better posture picking things up, sitting down, or lifting things. Exercise often mirrors everyday life for a reason.
As you probably know there is much information out there about how tight muscles can attribute to a less optimal posture setup. Perhaps you have seen helpful articles like this one.
Idea: If you don’t know how to practice better posture when exercising seek out a qualified professional that can give you some good tips or share some useful things that are online.
Feeling overwhelmed? I get it. It can be easy for sure especially if there is pain involved. Think backward…if you are having pain – what are your daily habits? Daily habits of driving, standing, what shoes you wear (and how old are they?), office environment, or even your sleep position all can contribute to your posture. Even if you have walked out of a posture class feeling taller or after a great video session with someone you have to find ways to practice that when you are less aware of your posture. Try small pieces. Stop thinking about good or bad & instead about practicing so you have better posture. At the store. When you are exercising. When you are washing the dishes. Your goal should be trying to be “at home” in a more optimal posture..not having to force yourself into it. That takes time…
Fixing your posture long term can’t be solved by a class or some cool gadget. Working on better posture may be a combination of many things that work for YOU. When you do find what works for you chances are you have found a way to practice more optimal posture in your habits that can lead to less pain and even better breathing. Think of it as practice, not striving for perfection.