Your mother may have always told you to “sit up straight” for good reason; poor posture not only signals a lack of confidence, but can also be bad for your health. When you’re not sitting or standing up straight, your muscles and ligaments must struggle to align and keep your body upright. This naturally leads to back pain, but can also cause tension headaches, neck pain, muscle strain and joint pain. Luckily, these ills can be remedied with just a little behavior change.
To avoid looking like someone out of the early stages of human evolution, abide by these six tips for good standing posture:
1. Stand relaxed (do not lock your knees), but keep your shoulders back.
2. Tighten your core so that your abdomen is pulled in, but not to the point that you’re straining.
3. Keep your butt tucked under your hips so that your pelvis stays aligned.
4. Feet should be forward and aligned directly below each of your hips with your weight evenly distributed between feet.
5. Arms and hands should be loosely at your sides in a natural stance.
6. Lift your chin slightly so that your head is straight.
None of these motions should be too harsh or tight; you should feel relaxed, but aligned. If it helps, imagine a string going from the top of your head down your body all the way to the ground between your feet.
If you’re having to stand for a while, physical therapist Michelle Davidson recommends standing with your feet a little further apart than usual with one foot more in front of the other. By doing this she says you will be taking some of the strain off your back, which will help prevent tension and pain in the area.
If you’re unsure if you’re hitting the posture-perfect marks, test it out. Back up against a wall until your hand, shoulder blades and butt touch the wall. Your feet should remain a few inches apart, again, under your hips. Next, reach your hand against the wall behind the curve of your lower back, the lumbar curve. There should be just enough space for your hand to fit; if there’s more, focus on tightening your core. If there’s not enough space, your back should be arched comfortably to achieve proper alignment.
Learning to sit properly is crucial to obtaining and maintaining good posture. First, you should select a chair that will allow you to have both feet firmly on the floor with your knees in line with your hips. You should sit with your shoulders back but relaxed and against the back of the chair, making sure your lower back meets with the back of the chair. You should lift your chin lightly so that your head is level with your neck in a relaxed, straight position.
Again, imagining a string going from the tip of your head down your neck, your upper back and lower back can help achieve this torso alignment. You may feel ridged or stiff at first, but eventually your body and muscles will get used to sitting properly and it will become natural for you.
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