Stand Tall: How Good Posture Helps Your Health
Good or bad, how you stand – and sit – has dramatic effects on your health and well-being. So, whether you’re hunched over a computer for 60 hours each week or strumming guitar in a band every Friday night, chronically contorted posture may prevent you from performing at your best – never mind what it does to your shoulders, back and neck.
“Over time, poor posture can lead to arthritis and degenerative changes, which cause a lot of pain for patients,” explains Eunice Yu, M.D., internal medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System. “Good posture is important because it distributes your weight efficiently and causes the least amount of stress to your joints.”
That’s not the only benefit to standing and sitting taller. “When you have better posture, you also breathe better because your chest can fully expand,” Dr. Yu says. “Good posture gets more oxygen to your body with each breath, reduces anxiety, and, incidentally, helps you look more confident.”
How Do You Know If Your Posture Is Correct?
Whether you’re sitting or standing, pay attention to how your body is resting. To stand straight, make sure your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are in one line. Most people round their shoulders forward in a hunched position that mimics the way they sit at their desks.
When you’re seated, align your shoulders and keep them pulled back rather than hunched forward. Your arms should be slightly shrugged (preferably on an armrest) and your elbows should be resting at a 90-degree angle.
“There should be a slight inward curve in the low back and neck when you sit,” Dr. Yu says. If you’re having trouble maintaining that low back curve, lie on your belly, push up with your arms and look up to the ceiling so you can feel the curve (yogis call this an upward dog pose). For your shoulders, lie flat on your back with pillows underneath your thighs and a neck roll pillow under your neck to help reverse that chronic hunching position.
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Then, pay attention to your work station. Are you sitting with your arms and legs at 90-degree angles? Is your monitor set up so you can look straight ahead rather than up or down? If you’re not sure you’re positioned correctly, ask your manager for an ergonomics assessment or set up an appointment with a physical therapist.
Since it’s more difficult to maintain good posture in a sitting position, do everything you can to sit less. Take frequent breaks to walk around and stretch. You might even consider using a standing desk. Specific exercise regimens and regular stretching can help, too. Activities such as yoga and Pilates help strengthen your core muscles so it’s easier to stand and sit up tall.
Looking for more advice on how to improve your overall health and wellness? Schedule an appointment with a primary care physician at henryford.com or by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Eunice Yu is an internal medicine specialist who sees adult patients at Henry Ford Medical Center — Fairlane in Dearborn.