“Sit up straight.” “Don’t slouch.”

If your mom was anything like mine, you’ve probably heard that more than a few times in your life. But mom was right to correct us and not just because a slumped posture looks terrible. Poor posture can adversely affect health in many ways, potentially creating a lifetime of problems.

Good posture is a significant component of overall health. It reduces the risk of fatigue and strain on the soft tissues in the body, which can lead to spinal degeneration, muscular dysfunction, and chronic pain. Spinal misalignment can lead to pain, tingling, numbness, decreased strength and intolerance to static positions,

Correcting your posture can help eliminate your risk for many of these conditions. It can also make you a better athlete. That’s right. Good posture means good form, less risk of injuries and better performance.

Gravity’s Effect on Posture

Throughout the day and even when we are lying down at night, gravity is exerting a force that pulls on the soft tissues of our body. When it is in proper alignment, the bones bear the brunt of gravity’s pull rather than the muscles, which limits fatigue.

But poor posture isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness or a bad habit that mom wasn’t able to reverse. Often, imbalances are present that prevent a person from having proper postural alignment. Muscle tightness in the chest, for example, can limit your range of motion, causing the shoulders to pull forward.

Five Tips for Improving Posture

To improve posture, perform regular body checks to ensure it is in proper alignment and follow these five steps to proper posture.

  1. Start at the feet. Imagine your feet as the roots of a tree. They help stabilize your body during movement. Keep your feet and knees pointed straight ahead when sitting or standing.
  2. Distribute your weight evenly across both feet. Don’t stand with your hips pushed forward.
  3. A strong core can do wonders for posture. If the muscles in the core (abdominals, glutes, back, and pelvis) are weak, it is harder to keep the body in proper alignment.
  4. Avoid shoulder slumping or overcorrection, which creates a curve in the back. Your head, trunk, and pelvis should be in vertical alignment. Run your hand along your spine. Your back should feel straight vertically. If it isn’t, make adjustments to your bottom and shoulder positioning.
  5. Use proper head alignment by keeping your chin parallel to the floor.

Postural correction takes time and persistence. Physical therapists can help by identifying any imbalances and then teaching you the correct way to target and strengthen the core muscles of the body. Always consult a doctor or physical therapist for assistance in postural training.