Fitness expert Sarah Cowley explains how small changes to posture can make a big difference.
Stand up tall, my mother used to say to me growing up. I never realised the significance of those words, but I now find myself campaigning about the importance of good posture for health and well-being. Good posture is holding your body in an optimal position so that the least amount of stress is placed on your muscles and ligaments when you move. It’s created through an even distribution of weight through your feet, maintaining the normal curves of your spine and holding yourself through an activated core.
Firstly, posture is important because it is directly linked to your well-being at a hormonal level. The release of testosterone in people with good posture is empowering. Standing and sitting in strong postures creates an energy within us. Inversely, a meek hunched posture is disempowering and has been shown to increase cortisol levels, which are directly related to stress.
In support of the way posture affects your mood and emotional state, Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on posture and body language is a good watch for those in doubt. When I used to compete as an elite track and field athlete, before I entered the field of play I would hold my arms above my head in a power pose. I got an instant boost and it helped me carry myself well into battle.
Primarily, good posture helps prevent injury. Your body is anatomically designed to move in a certain way. Over time, we can slip into bad habits. Our constant fascination with our devices has created increased kyphotic postures and, let’s face it, no one wants to be the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Now is a great opportunity to take an honest look at the way you hold your body in standing and sitting. Check your work station and, as a start, look at your chair height, desk height and computer position. Simply altering these three variables can make a significant difference in back pain, breathing patterns and any upper limb issues.
By creating efficient movement patterns through good posture, you can move optimally, breathe well and live an empowered life. Assess how you hold yourself today and, as a start, stand up tall.
Thoracic spine rotations
This is a fantastic exercise for spinal mobility to allow your body to maintain good posture. Start off with 2 x 5 each side and then work up to 10 repetitions. I love doing this when I’ve been sitting for long periods to loosen my back up.
1. Get on your hands and knees, making sure your knees are directly under your hips, creating a right angle. With your arms straight, make your hands sit directly underneath your shoulders, creating a right angle. Your spine should be in a neutral position, with your belly button slightly drawn into your spine to activate your lower abdominals.
2. Stretch your right hand outwards and upwards, like a book opening. Follow your hand with your eyes as your spine rotates and your hand circles upward. Avoid forcing the movement rather, let your hand rise up in a smooth motion. Keep your knees and feet on the ground.
3. Lower your arm back down and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.