Your posture has a huge impact on your mental and physical health. It also reveals a lot about you, your attitude and level of confidence.

How you hold your body – often called body language – can tell more about you than your words. Sitting up straight or standing straight when speaking are more powerful positions than slouching or a stooped posture. Good body posture indicates that you are confident, have self-respect and respect your audience. Straight posture also “says” you are interested in what the other person is saying, and you value the conversation. Slouching indicates a lack of interest in the other person and their words, or that you don’t care how they think about you. Poor posture can also indicate a lack of self-esteem.

Impact on health

Many features of modern life contribute to poor posture. Texting, sitting at a computer all day, or wearing high-heeled shoes create body stress and muscle strain. Proper body alignment refers to how the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles relate to each other and how they line up and work together. Proper alignment can prevent joint pain and muscle strain as well as help you use your muscles more efficiently.

Here are some of the problems poor posture can cause, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Headaches can be caused by straining the muscles of your head, neck, jaw and upper back due to poor posture.
  • Jaw pain can result from a forward head posture, causing your TMJ joint to be overworked, resulting in pain, jaw popping, even difficulty opening your mouth.
  • Back pain is common with poor posture and can become chronic, reducing your quality of life.
  • Hip, knee and foot pain can be caused by a combination of poor hip alignment, muscle weakness, tightness and lack of flexibility. When your body doesn’t move smoothly and easily, as it’s designed to do, strain and pain can result. Poor foot and ankle alignment can cause painful plantar fasciitis.
  • Shoulder pain, especially in the muscles and tendons in your rotator cuff, can result from a forward, hunched posture. Muscles or tendons can become pinched, leading to a tear in in the rotator cuff tissue. This can cause significant pain, weakness and limit your ability to do the most basic daily activities.
  • Fatigue and breathing problems can be caused by poor posture that restricts your rib cage and compresses your diaphragm. It’s harder to inhale a full breath and exhale it completely. This leads to shallow breathing, fatigue and lack of energy and affects your productivity.
  • A constant slump compresses your inside organs and makes it harder for lungs and intestines to work. Over time, that’ll make it hard to digest food or get enough air when you breathe.

What’s good posture?

Here’s how to check your posture:

  • Stand next to a wall with the back of your head, shoulder blades and bottom touching the wall. Your heels should be two to four inches out from the wall.
  • To check for the correct lower back curve, you should just barely be able to slide your flat hand between your lower back and the wall. If there’s too much space, move your bellybutton toward your spine.
  • Walk away from the wall holding the proper posture. Return to the wall to see if you can maintain proper alignment.

13 tips for good posture:

Become aware of your posture throughout the day. “Check” it whenever you switch activities. Good posture should feel natural. If you’re trying to improve it, don’t overcorrect as you establish the good posture habit.

Stand up and move around every hour if you have a desk job. At the very least, stand up and focus on your posture. Moving around can relieve muscle strain and improve breathing, circulation, attention and productivity.

Adjust your keyboard so it’s at elbow height, allowing your wrists to remain straight as you type.

Keep your computer monitor at eye level. Place laptops or tablets on a platform so they’re at eye level.

Keep your cellphone at eye level so you don’t bend your head forward.

Adjust chair height so your whole foot can touch the floor. Keep your knees and hips at the same level.

Do not cross your legs when seated. Keep ankles in front of your knees; maintain a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of the chair.

Sit back against the chair. If it does not support your lower back, use a small pillow or rolled up hand towel behind your lower back.

Hold your head high and look forward, not at the ground, when walking. Smoothly roll your foot from heel to toe. Move shoulders naturally, keeping back straight but not arched forward or backward. Keep elbows slightly bent as arms swing freely.

Bend at your hips and knees when lifting, instead of at your waist to keep your back from rounding.

Tighten your core muscles when standing and walking.

Exercise your core muscles with regular core, shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises.

Reconsider your footwear if you regularly wear high heels. Walking in heels is essentially walking on your toes, which is not normal body movement. High heels cause knees to hyperextend, the pelvis to tip forward, lower back muscles to tighten and your core muscles to become weak. Shorter, wider heels help to better distribute your weight. Always tighten your core muscles when walking in heels.

Good posture supports good mental and physical health. It makes you look better, feel more confident and have less pain. What is your posture saying about you?

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