The term ‘sit up properly’ is one that follows you from childhood, right through to adulthood, but what are the benefits of good posture and why is there such emphasis on it?
We’ve listed 13 of the most important benefits of good posture, so you can make sure that you avoid any health risks that poor posture may pose.
In this article we will take a look at:
- What is Posture?
- Why is Good Posture Important?
- Benefits of Good Posture
- How to improve posture
- Types of Posture
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So, let's start with some basics.
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What is Posture?
Good posture, or 'neutral spine', is when the muscles on either side of the spine are balanced, supporting the body equally and symmetrically.
Static posture refers to how we hold ourselves when the body is completely still - this can be characterised by the posture we possess when sitting, standing, or sleeping. On the other hand, dynamic posture references the alignment of the body when it is moving.
The health benefits of good posture are vast; from improving the body's circulation to offering advantages to our self-confidence - the list is extensive and we will delve into this further later on.
There is no doubt that by having a good posture, it can have an overall positive impact on our fitness ability. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that it can both enhance our workout efficiency, as well as reduce the risk of injury - both of which we will explain in more detail later on.
The health benefits of good posture extend far beyond preventing back pain and by the end of this guide, you will have a much better insight into the many ways improving your posture can better your life.
If you’re a fitness professional, this guide to postural assessment could be useful for you.
Habitual one-sided use and dominantly over-relying on your left or right side, combined with spending too much time at a desk can negatively affect posture and lead to improper alignment which, over time, causes strain to be placed on your dominant side's muscle groups.
This can jeopardize workouts, sports performance, internal body systems and even impact overall energy levels. All of these reasons are factors that contribute to the reasoning behind why good posture is important for a healthy body system.
Why Is Good Posture Important?
Good posture has masses of benefits, but when defining the importance of good posture it is important to understand how it can impact our daily life. The prevention of injuries and chronic pains are at the centre of good posture, so let's look at the details of this.
Good posture is defined as the proper alignment of your spine, which in practice allows your body to be supported without any strain or struggle. This is because the spine is the central support of our body and therefore by abandoning this, we take down all the areas surrounding it too.
Areas such as our neck all the way to our digestive system can be affected by bad posture, but why? Bad posture strains the muscles and ligaments supporting our neck and ultimately creates a painful problem. As for digestion; slouched posture is abnormal for our bodily systems to work well and therefore, the organs struggle to work to their full potential. This can lead to uncomfortable sensations such as acid reflux and constipation.
Benefits Of Good Posture
#1 Enhances Athletic Performance
One of the advantages of good posture is how it promotes more efficient movement when playing sports. Correct posture enables an athlete to move faster, maintain positions for longer and ultimately is the underlying mechanism by which top athletes can excel at their chosen sport with precision and endurance.
Good posture is vital for balance as it requires an equal distribution of weight. Balance is essential for athletes from a number of sporting activities, such as: tennis, dancing, skiing, golf, running, sports and weight training. With proper alignment, we can reap the benefits of improved posture and strengthen our balance and as a result, our performance.
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Another of the benefits of good posture in relation to athletic performance is its role in reducing the risk of sports injury. For example, engaging our core with a neutral spine (straight back) when performing a squat. Good posture encourages a better form when performing exercises such as squats which require an engaged core and neutral spine to be conducted safely. If performed with bad posture, it could cause more strain to be placed on one side of the body and ultimately result in injury.
In a 2010 study that looked at posture and athletes who participate in sports that involve throwing or striking with a bat, researchers found that the athletes with better standing posture had a better range of mobility. The study highlighted that the shoulder's mobility changed according to posture; the better the athlete's posture, the more their shoulder was able to move freely.
In the same study, the findings showed that improper posture also places unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint, which is then forced to over-compensate for the work that should actually be placed on the trunk (torso) and back muscles. Consequently, the benefits of having a good posture led to a reduced risk of injury in the athletes, as it prevents the overcompensation and workload of unnecessary muscle groups and ensures the correct parts of the body are being utilised.
For athletes and those who train regularly, some of the benefits of improved posture are a reduced risk of developing overextended knees and altered shoulder joints. This is a result of over-engaging the wrong muscle groups for a particular exercise or movement.
Every day activities can also play a part in negatively impacting an athlete’s posture, which can carry over into their training and have a detrimental effect on their performance. For this reason, coaches and personal trainers often work on general postures that will benefit these everyday encounters, which in itself results in athletes reaping the health benefits of good posture in training.
#2 Reduces Back and Joint Pain
One of the most important benefits of good posture is it helps to prevent back pain.
When standing in a 'neutral' position the pelvis, head, and torso are 'stacked'; this means that the ribs are pulled down and are stacked over the pelvis, and hips stacked over ankles. This is optimal posture and the best for the prevention of any postural issues.
A slouched posture often refers to a position where the head and pelvis are out of alignment, which will more often than not result in back and joint pain over time. Poor posture is estimated to be the cause of 63% of lower back pain issues, 53% of chronic neck pain and 38% of persisting shoulder pain.
In a study with school children, poor posture presented a 20 to 51% risk of developing lower back pain. Bad posture can result in weakened abdominal muscles, poor spinal alignment and pressure on the spine, including the intervertebral discs and facet points, leading to back, shoulder, neck and joint pain.
If you’re an avid gym goer, reading our common weightlifting injuries & prevention guide may be insightful for your workouts.
One of the benefits of better posture is how it thoroughly engages the muscles groups, connective tissues, joints and ligaments - which all play a significant role in supporting the spine. The result of this is having less strain placed on overly relied on tissues and if you suffer from the aches and pains associated with bad posture, correcting your posture may offer gradual but considerable pain reduction.
#3 Increases Lung Capacity
When we slouch, it compresses the lungs, shortening the muscles at the front of the body and therefore preventing the lungs from inflating fully. Good posture, on the other hand, provides our bodies with increased lung capacity and expiratory flow, as well as promoting better breath management - ultimately improving the function of our lungs.
Research shows good posture improves your ability to breathe deeply increasing oxygen intake by as much as 30%.
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A tall, open chest allows the stomach, intestines, lungs, and other vital organs to function optimally. For example, if you were to compare the difference in your breathing between sitting upright, shoulders back, chest out, relative to leaning forward with round shoulders; you should notice a real distinct improvement on your breathing pattern.
Sitting upright will give you the benefits of good posture and you should be able to naturally take in an easier, longer and deeper breath. Whereas when we slouch, the muscle group which facilitates breathing is not able to draw air in properly, this affects our overall breathing capacity, and can impact digestion and even bladder function.
This is vital for effective exercise and can be supported by the findings of a study on a sample group of rowers. Researchers compared the strength of the muscles in the chest that are necessary for supporting breathing when rowers hold both good and bad postures.
They found that when rowers sat with poor posture, there was a 3–9 % decline in how efficiently the muscles of the chest contracted, and therefore the rowers' oxygen intake was limited all due to posture.
#4 Assists The Anti-Ageing Process
Over 1.5 million people above the age of 65 are seriously injured each year due to falls. This causes an estimated 14,000 deaths. Poor posture places unbalanced stress on the joints. This can lead to reduced mobility and increased risk of falls in seniors.
Joints wear down naturally over time, one of the health benefits of good posture is that joint problems are less likely to arise as severe as we age. Poor posture on the other hand can lead to arthritis, weak spines, unprotected, exposed nerves, back and shoulder pain as well as neck pain.
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The ageing process has a pronounced effect on the bones, muscles and joints; all of which are part of the musculoskeletal system that defines our posture. This process sees the back curve forward, resulting in an increasingly stooped posture which is generally associated with age.
However, through working to improve and maintain a good posture in our younger years, this can in turn promote a better posture in later life and may even avoid this natural occurrence
A lifetime of correct posture benefits can avoid us leading to feeling and acting older prematurely. If you're concerned about posture and ageing, balancing exercises can encourage better posture and regular pilates and yoga to help strengthen core muscles. Further, If you spend long hours at a desk or on a couch, change positions often, ensure the back is well supported whilst seated and keep legs uncrossed, feet firmly placed on the ground can also help.
#5 Improves Concentration
One of the health benefits of good posture in men and women is increased lung capacity. This in turn means improved oxygenation of the blood which allows the brain to function optimally and presents a positive impact on concentration, focus and cognition.
The human brain has more than 100 billion neurons and 1000 trillion synaptic connections that are responsible for concentration and memory. Improved posture has a direct impact on improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients to these neurons which allows them to function at their best.
When a large portion of your day sees you reside in front of a desk; whether it be for studying or work purposes, it's important to have suitable seating that offers the correct level of support and comfort whilst keeping your sitting position upright.
Additionally, a study found that posture and your mood are directly linked, not only this but more research found one of the more positive health benefits of good posture. This was that when you sit up straight in a chair, you have confidence in your thoughts.
This is due to the link between physical movements to psychological understanding, the posture that we associate with confidence is an open chest and an optimal position. Therefore, that is how it influences our thought process on what is considered confident. So, the health benefits of good posture ultimately help your overall health from head to toe.
Find out here how we recommended to improve mental toughness in athletes.
#6 Reduces Headaches
The health benefits of good posture continue as correct form can help avoid issues such as hunched shoulders and a forward head - both of which cause tension on the muscles in the back of the neck which can trigger tension headaches.
Those who frequently suffer with migraines often report neck pain, suggesting a build-up of tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back - all of which we know is a consequence of long periods spent in a forward head posture. An example of this being sitting at a desk for long periods of your day, this may be a contributing cause of migraines in regular sufferers.
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In attempt to understand the health benefits of good posture, research into the relationship between posture and migraines led to the discovery that those who suffer from migraines are likely to have musculoskeletal dysfunctions.
This supports a link between dysfunction of the cervical systems, the discs in the neck, and a person's risk of migraines. So, in order to prevent this kind of negative bodily activity, good posture and becoming aware of daily activities that could affect your neck or back is important to keep the musculoskeletal system working in optimal performance.
#7 Provides Better Digestion
The advantages of good posture don’t end there; the gastrointestinal system, which consists of the stomach, intestines and liver, can easily facilitate the flow of broken-down food and digestive juices via peristalsis (contractions of the colon).
So, what has this got to do with the benefits of good posture? When the trunk (torso) is stretched out, the gastrointestinal system has room to move and the hip, back, and abdominal muscles can tighten-and-release to support peristalsis. Therefore, one of the good posture benefits is the prevention of constipation, heartburn, and slowed digestion.
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Not only this, but with increased abdominal pressure, poor posture can also compress the bladder leading to stress incontinence.
It is important to keep in mind how to keep good posture while sitting, this is because poor seated postures can cause an unnatural curve in the spine resulting in blockages in the middle of the intestinal tract.
The consequence of this is that the nerves communicating to the intestines stop signalling and digestion stops altogether regardless of how many supplements or how much fibre you're getting. So don’t forget to tell your colleagues how to keep good posture at work.
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#8 Improves Circulation
It is vital to recognise the health benefits of good posture as poor posture means poor circulation. Slouching can impact healthy circulation, when you slouch the ribcage presses down on vital organs.
This increases the risk of high blood pressure as blood flow to and from the heart is jeopardized and weakens digestive and respiratory organs. Check out our top heart rate monitors to track your heart health here.
One of the advantages of good posture is that it allows blood to flow optimally to and from the heart, reducing the risk of high blood pressure. This allows blood to supply organs with oxygen and nutrients and body systems to function properly.
To encourage healthy blood flow and reap the health benefits of good posture, sit with your hips back into the chair, feet on the ground, shoulders back and neck muscles relaxed. The use of a lumbar roll to support the lower back is also a brilliant tool for helping encourage better posture whilst sitting.
#9 Improves Core Strength
The benefits of good posture don’t end there, good posture engages and strengthens the core muscles, the back, side, pelvis, and buttocks. All of which link the spine and upper and lower bodies.
Sitting and standing in proper alignment daily will progressively strengthen the core over time, and if you need to learn how to engage your core you can read about it here with OriGym.
When beginning to build better posture, working the core muscles is essential as they become more efficient at maintaining good posture and in turn, it begins to feel much more natural and is easily maintained.
It’s a two-way street with your core strength and posture. If your core muscles are weak, the postural muscles don’t need to work as hard which leads to muscle weakness; all because the body is not in correct alignment.
This is because poor posture makes the core muscles become inefficient, this then leads to the postural muscles not activating if the body is not in good posture. So, in a nutshell, poor posture leads to core muscles becoming less useful and contributing to the cycle of bad posture.
#10 Improves Self-Confidence
Advantages of good posture are also good for our emotive response. Correct posture benefits us by giving the appearance of being taller and slimmer; and for people with a good level of fitness, can make the abdominals more defined. Thus, boosting both self-esteem and confidence.
Check out the benefits of exercise that you can't replicate at home including mental health stabilisation.
Some researchers suggest that our posture is primal, whether we are a predator or prey, strong or weak, with slouching being a way to protect vital organs during an attack. A 2017 study also supported a finding that we judge others as more capable and stronger if they have good posture.
Further research has found more emotive benefits of good posture discovering that people who were told to sit up straight were more likely to believe statements they wrote down about themselves, whether positive or negative, than those who were asked to slouch at their desks performing the same task.
Researchers concluded why good posture is important by finding that as a society, we are taught posture is a sign of confidence and that when we correct our posture, we attribute the same traits unconsciously to ourselves; this suggests that our posture affects our overall self-belief.
#11 Improves Mental Wellbeing
There are advantages of having a good posture that actually protect us as when we feel threatened. We adopt a defensive posture - tight muscles, shallow breathing and rounded shoulders, this signals to the brain that there is a threat.
Studies suggest correct posture benefits the effectiveness of treating anxiety by encouraging things such as mindfulness, if this is an area of focus for you, check out our list of pros and cons of Yoga to enhance your practice.
Mindfulness forces us to focus on our bodies alignment and quieting negative thought patterns, rumination and increasing awareness. Therefore, athletes may benefit from better posture to discourage anxiety and boost mindfulness before a sports performance.
Becoming aware of your posture can increase your persistence, but how? When conducting tasks for school or work it is easy to be shifting in your seat a lot, although this may be a signal to take a break, fixing your posture may actually be able to help you carry on that little bit longer. This is because there are indications of how sitting in an up-right posture helps perseverance on difficult tasks, this is one of the great benefits of good posture that is super easy to do!
#12 Prevents Kyphosis
Kyphosis is a curvature of the spine resulting in an abnormally rounded upper back with a curve of more than 45 degrees; if untreated, Severe kyphosis can lead to difficulty breathing and eating.
Another one of the undeniable benefits of posture is avoiding postural kyphosis, this is caused by poor posture which permanently jeopardizes supporting muscles and ligaments of the back.
As a result of this, the spine begins to curve, this causes an extreme pain which can't be treated with medication; this curvature progresses to breathing difficulties, weakness in the arms and legs and loss of bladder or bowel control.
The best way to protect against postural kyphosis is by being mindful of your posture and working to improve your body's alignment. Performing both of these things whilst going about daily activities will hopefully begin to improve symptoms. Not to forget another great way of helping aches and pains such as take part in stretch-based exercises such as yoga and Pilates.
Check out our ultimate guide to office fitness here if this is one of the factors contributing to your back issues.
#13 Creates A Flatter Stomach
One of the consequences of poor posture is a large anterior pelvic tilt (APT). This is whereby the pelvis is tilted forwards causing the stomach to be more prominent as a 'pot belly'. By activating the benefits of good posture, you can prevent this.
ATP is normally caused by tight hip flexors which can be the result of a lot of time sitting, injury, or weak core muscles. More than aesthetics, ATP carries a risk of developing lower back, hip, and knee pain as well as increased risk of injury when exercising. If you’re somebody who regularly works at a desk or wants to endure the advantages of good posture, recognising your current posture is important.
APT can be improved by working on a neutral posture. Building up core strength and engaging in training can help when performing exercises such as lunges and squats. Conducting these exercises can tilt the pelvis towards 'neutral' and can essentially flatten the stomach.
A great way to understand your body is learning about the types of body fat, read about it here.
If you find that you have a stubborn lower belly which can't be improved with diet and exercise correcting your posture may be the solution.
How To Improve Posture
It's always good to know how good or bad our own posture is and how we can improve it; so let's take a look at some tips for improving your posture. In general terms, improving your posture can be small changes that are incorporated into your everyday life.
Changes such as; taking care in how you sit at your desk at work, taking the conscious decision to not slouch when standing or listening and acting on any aches or pains. This kind of behaviour can encourage better posture to become a habit and prevent habitual stooped positions.
Tips For Improving Posture
- Strengthen the core
- Daily posture checks
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Keep legs uncrossed
- Take brief walks
- Thighs and hips supported
Types Of Posture
Flat Back Posture
As you can see by the visual, this creates a stiffness in the lumbar spine and creates tight muscles and will create painful problems if consistent. The curvature that you see at the top of the back is a key problem to this position and needs to be addressed in order to prevent pains and muscular tension.
Hollow back posture
Hollow back posture also known as hyperlordosis, is an emphasis on an anterior tilt of the pelvis, this creates problems for the glutes and an increased lumbar curve can create pain and aches. This kind of posture affects those who find themselves sitting a lot and don't get the opportunity to walk and exercise their spine. This highlights the importance of taking regular breaks to allow the spine to move adequately.
Sway back posture
This posture is one that projects lower back pain the most, it leads to an exaggerated curvature of the spin and promotes back pain. The head pokes forward and displays an outward curve in the upper back also known as kyphosis; this kind of position can put unnecessary strain on organs and cause heartburn and even incontinence.
Optimal posture is what everyone should be aiming for. This position ensures prevention of aches and pains, ensuring there will be no lasting effects on your health due to posture. It minimises compression of any joints or muscles and will have your body working at optimal performance.
The body is designed to be symmetrical; however as a result of habitual one-sided use, combined with the amount of time we spend on the couch, desk or slumped over our phones - this is not often the case.
By being more mindful of your posture and making a conscious effort to improve it, this will enable you to reap the benefits of good posture listed within this article, and directly improve your overall quality of life
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