‘Good posture is the one most important thing anybody can do now to look better’ – Helen Gurley Brown
In my post last week about flat stomachs, I mentioned posture as being really important. One of my lovely fellow bloggers commented that we don’t realise how important posture is, and I think she is absolutely right. Not only does maintaining correct posture help us look better in terms of flattening our stomachs, but it also means our internal organs aren’t squashed which means more oxygen goes to the skin, detoxification is more efficient, and digestion is improved. All of these things help keep our complexion glowing and make us look better overall.
Correct posture keeps our bones and joints in alignment, prevents strains and sprains, as well as backache and muscular pain, and avoids abnormal wear and tear of joint surfaces which can result in arthritis. It also helps prevent problems as we age including the risk of falls which is more likely to happen if we hunch, as it takes our bodies off balance. By the age of 65, around 30% of us will experience at least one fall every year which can lead to broken bones and shattered confidence.
It is even possible for bad posture to cause blood pressure to rise, courtesy of a direct neural link between the neck muscles and the part of the brain stem responsible for regulating blood pressure.
On top of all that, did you know that we all lose height as we age? Between the ages of 30 and 70, women lose about 5 cm in height, men about 3 cm. Basically it is to do with the spongy discs between the vertebrae in our backs that squash down which, not only cause us to lose height, but make us more prone to bad backs, aches and pains. Some people (and not just women) can develop what is known as a ‘widow’s hump’, a fleshy mound at the back of our neck which can be caused by spending hours looking down at computers and phones in addition to being a result of osteoporosis where our bones lose their density.
So what can we do to improve our posture?
The good news is, there are plenty of things we can do, however old we are and whether or not our posture is currently poor, so now is as good a time as any!
Practice Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi or the Alexander Technique? All of these help us to stand tall, unlearn bad habits and improve both our posture and our health.
Maintain a sensible body weight, as being overweight pushes the spine out of alignment. Even ‘middle age spread’, where fat accumulates around your middle, is partly a result of the spine no longer being upright which forces your tummy out.
Eat plenty of bone strengthening foods such as almonds, broccoli and kale which all contain calcium and vitamin D. It’s also important to drink plenty of water as, over time, the discs between our vertebrae can dry out, become less jelly like, and begin to compress.
Raising our eye level when walking or when looking at devices, reading or talking to children stops us pushing our head forward and curving our spines. I place my device on two cushions now to bring it up to eye level when I am reading emails or checking social media. I often forget but the more I try, the more I will remember. If you’re talking to small children, try getting down on the floor so you are at the same level and can look them in the eye. Good for the child as well as you!
Practicing balance is excellent for posture. In theory we should all be able to balance for 90 seconds on each leg but I’m not there yet, despite lots of practice! If you haven’t read my post about balance, you can find it here: https://wordpress.com/post/happyhealthymeajourney.com/46
Stretching is great for all sorts of things and definitely helps with posture. Reaching up is an easy stretching exercise you can do pretty much anywhere, any time.
Lay down! Lying on your back on the floor for 10 minutes with your head resting on 2-3″ of books and your knees bent and hip width apart is great for your back and your posture. As we lay there, it is important to imagine our shoulders melting into the floor and heads moving away from our shoulders and our spines lengthening. This not only improves our posture but also releases any tension in our back.
When seated, remember to sit up straight and keep feet flat on the floor. When sitting for long periods, we can add in shoulder rolls and buttock clenches to engage core muscles and keep flexible too.
For our tiny tweak this week, I’m going to try lying down for 10 minutes every day. It’s a bit more of a time commitment than our usual tweaks, but I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it! I can listen to a podcast or do some deep breathing at the same time too! I’ve also started doing some research about the Alexander Technique. What are you going to try? Remember too that good posture not only makes us look better but it also increases our self-confidence and this blog is all about that! Making ourselves happier and healthier one tiny tweak at a time!
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this from the European Journal of Social Psychology: ‘Quit slumping! According to new research, standing and sitting up straight is linked with higher levels of self-confidence. And the better you feel about yourself, the more heads you’ll turn. So keep your eyes focused in front of you, your spine straight, and your shoulders down. You’ll feel ready to take on the world and you’ll look great while doing it’.
Until next time xx