We’re all aware we shouldn’t slouch, but why are some of us is still doing it?
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As you’re reading this, we’d bet good money you’re slouched over a desk or phone. That’s not a criticism – it’s just a sad fact of modern life.
With the mention of slouching, you might immediately have adjusted your posture – but how long will that last? Our lives are becoming increasingly sedentary, which makes it harder for us to keep our backs straight all the time.
Unfortunately, maintaining good posture is easier said than done. Other than looking good, why do we actually need to work so hard to keep our backs straight? We asked physiotherapist Anj Periyasamy how poor posture can impact your mental and physical health – and it might be the nudge you need to work a bit harder on your back.
Other than making sure you move about regularly, Periyasamy also advises you take a look at the ergonomics of your work station. This means adjusting your chair, desk and computer height so you’re not constantly leaning over and potentially injuring yourself.
“There are also various exercises and things people can do like yoga and Pilates – any concerns, or if you need advice, check with a physiotherapist,” Periyasamy adds. “Fixing poor posture takes work, but with some adjustments and retraining, you can reap the endless benefits which will improve overall physical and mental wellbeing.”
While the physical effects of your posture are quite obvious, Periyasamy warns of other things you might not have considered.
“It can also impact on lung function, heart health and cause gastrointestinal pain, to name a few,” she says.
When you look at it, these issues make sense. Take gastrointestinal pain – if you’re slumped over all the time, your organs are effectively bunching up, making it harder for food to be digested properly (particularly if you wolf down your lunch al desko). The same goes for lung and heart health – your body isn’t built to be hunched over, and your internal processes will run a whole lot more smoothly if you’re sitting properly.
Because your muscles have been working overtime to support your head (which is heavy, by the way), you can fatigue more quickly and might begin to feel tired during the day.
Don’t underestimate the connection between the physical and mental. “Good posture actually increases the endorphins in the body which makes us feel better, and being upright increases a reduction in cortisol – the stress hormone,” Periyasamy says. “The positioning of our body is important as it needs to be elongated so brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin can flow freely.”
If you’re having a bad day, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to slump over in an effort to hide from the world. However, this might actually make you feel worse – if you try sitting up straight, it might actually boost your mood. “A study published in Health Psychology reveals that people who slump are more phlegmatic, gloomy, and sad compared to those who sit, or stand up, straight,” says Periyasamy.
Particularly if you’re at work, good posture can do your confidence the world of good and help you excel at your job.
“Sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem after a stressful task,” explains Periyasamy.
“One way to improve your posture and confidence is to stand for two minutes in front of the mirror with your hands on your hips and looking tall.”