It’s time to Look at What’s Happening to Your Posture… and Do Something about It.
More and more we’re slumped over computers or hunched over cellphones and tablets, and it’s wreaking havoc on our posture. Mom told us to “stand up straight”, but the stress of bodies being squeezed behind a desk and fixed in front of a keyboard is why doctors and posture specialists are treating new problems like text-neck, computer-back and carpal-tunnel syndrome.
Awareness of a problem is always the first step towards improvement. Especially if your lifestyle isn’t going to change, consider starting an annual habit of looking at, and benchmarking, what the world sees when you believe you’re standing tall.
Checking out the current state of your posture is not just about alleviating pain or looking better and younger. Years of bad habits and repetitive motion cause changes in how our body functions. Gravity and muscle weakness cause posture degeneration and real health consequences. Movement is often restricted, flexibility decreases, the ability to breathe deeply is lost, leading to a reduced desire to exercise and be active. This is often the beginning of an unhealthy lifelong cycle.
Improving posture is easy; follow these three steps for a do-it-yourself postural analysis:
3 Steps to Standing Taller
You can use a free posture app like PostureZone, or any cellphone camera to find out what you really look like when you think you’re standing straight. You’ll need a friend to snap the picture - selfies don’t work. Have your friend take 3 pictures of you: one each from the front, back and side. Be sure to stand straight and tall when they take your picture.
Step 2: Print your Postural Pictures
Print out each picture to a separate sheet. Put a dot between your feet on the front and back view, and on your ankle on the side view. Then fold each paper in half vertically, neatly at the dot.
Step 3: Check your Postural Symmetry
Front & Back View Pictures: The two halves of your body should be the same. If your head or torso is off to one side, or one arm hangs further from the body, or one hand hangs lower than the other, your posture is not symmetrical.
Side View Picture: The line starting at your ankle should pass through your hip, shoulder and ear. If your head is far forward of that line, you may have a posture distortion called Forward Head Posture (FHP).
Check your breathing pattern as well. If you’re a chest breather, you may have Forward Head Breathing posture pattern.
If you’re like most people, you’ll be amazed to learn your perception of your ‘best posture’ translates to something not quite so straight and balanced when captured in an image. You’ll also note some opportunities for improvement.
File your self-check posture analysis away to compare to new posture pictures next year. Overtime, you’ll use previous assessments to notice any changes… for better or worse.
Choose Smart Posture Habits
Many people find taking the first step to become aware helps them stand and sit taller throughout the day. You can make it easier to adapt to new habits by choosing a good chair when sitting. An exercise ball to replace your chair is a fun choice, especially if you want to strengthen your balance as well. Remember to unfold your body by standing up tall and stretching during regular posture breaks 2 or 3 times an hour.
It’s smart to add posture awareness to any exercise you do. Exercising with poor posture will train you to stand and move poorly. If your posture picture revealed any imbalance, or you’ve had back or neck issues in the past, add focused posture exercise to your daily routine. Yoga, StrongPosture®, and Pilates are exercises that will work deep core muscles that are great for building body awareness and control.
At the end of the day, posture is very personal. If you prefer to work with a professional, a Certified Posture Exercise Professionals (CPEP) as well as many chiropractors, physical therapists, trainers and others specialize in posture. They will assess the mechanics of your body and recommend a posture analysis as the first step to correlate posture bio-mechanics with any symptoms or pain.
Your posture is more than how the world sees you; it affects every function of the body. Amazingly, it just takes a bit of effort to strengthen your posture and create an anti-aging habit to make you look and feel better, avoid injury and exercise effectively to stay active and age well.
Dr. Steven Weiniger, renowned posture expert and author of Stand Taller Live Longer- An Anti-Aging Strategy, the self help guide to posture exercise serves as senior editor of BodyZone.com, an online wellness resource that also offers an international directory of posture specialists (Certified Posture Exercise Professionals). He can be contacted through www.BodyZone.com. For more on do-it-yourself posture analysis and posture improvement see www.StrongPosture.com