By Laura Williams
You may be surprised to hear that posture’s implicated in a variety of conditions, from heightened stress levels to reduced life expectancy. Check out our guide to the unexpected ways your posture might be affecting your health…
1. Back and other joint pain
The most obvious one. Slouching, stooping or remaining in the same position, especially when performing repetitive tasks, can place ahuge strain on muscles, joints and ligaments. Recent research from the British Chiropractic Association found over two thirds of the UK have suffered with some form of back pain. Unsurprising when you consider the amount of time we spent typing, texting and watching TV.
Quick fix: Regular breaks can make all the difference to your joints – getting up and moving about will provide some relief to back, neck, hips and knees, particularly if you’ve been sitting down with legs crossed, or looking down at a screen instead of straight ahead. Check your environment is joint-friendly, too. Foot rests, back supports, supportive back packs and other hand luggage can make all the difference and may even be enough to keep you out of the physio’s studio.
2. Increased levels of stress
Poor posture including slumped positions is thought to alter levels of the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone. A leading US social psychologist revealed maintaining ‘power poses’ (standing in a variety of poses that reflected confidence) results in decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of the sex hormone testosterone that’s also associated with self-confidence. Slouching, on the other hand, does the reverse.
Quick fix: If you’ve got a tough meeting coming up, or a similarly stressful situation, try and be mindful of posture regardless of how you feel. Easier said than done but certainly worth a go for managing stress levels. Taking a few minutes out beforehand to practise some deep breathing may help reduce feelings of stress and in turn make it a little bit easier for you to stand tall with relaxed shoulders, so you appear calmer and more confident than you feel!
3. Reduced life expectancy
A sedentary lifestyle is becoming increasingly linked to reduced life expectancy with some experts believing it poses as much of a risk to health as smoking. One University of Queensland study found that after the age of 25, every hour you’re slumped on the sofa watching TV reduces life expectancy by 21.8 minutes! This could of course be due to a variety and combination of of causes. However, various studies have suggested that as we age, the accumulative effect of leaning forward and the resulting excessive curvature of the upper back may be linked to cardiovascular disease.
Quick fix: Don’t panic if you’re partial to a bit of TV viewing and/or leaning forward. Do use this as an excuse to shake up your viewing and texting habits though. Try sitting cross legged to watch TV, with your back supported against a sofa or chair if needs be and give the Swiss ball a go too when you’re taking time out from the sofa – hip flexor and core muscles will get a workout while neck and back get a bit of a break.
4. Muscle pain and injury
Everything from wearing high heels to hours of smartphone use and crossing legs can cause muscles to be used in repetitive ways. Overnight you may develop neck ache, lower back pain or tight hips and you can’t figure out why.
Quick fix: The key to keeping muscle strain at bay is to avoid any unnatural repetitive patterns. Always be aware of your posture. If you’ve developed tight neck muscles, look at driving position, computer screen height, pillows and handbag size, etc.Everyday objects make surprising culprits. Try changing the way you perform everyday movements too – holding your phone in front of you to type, closer to eye level, may leave you feeling self-conscious but your neck and upper back will thank you for it. And don’t forget your daily stretches: a quick chest and shoulder stretch at your desk will help to counteract hours of hunching over a keyboard, while an upper back stretch, whether you’ve been lifting heavy loads or balancing a baby on your hip for hours at a time, will help to stretch those muscles back out.
5. Low mood
A New Zealand study compared participants’ response to stress as a result of their seating positions. Some were seated in an upright posture while others remained in a slumped position. Those who were upright reported improved positive moods and greater self-esteem than those who were slumped.
Quick fix: If you can’t shrug off a poor posture, try taking a walking break. Taking an active breather from your desk, or whatever task is causing you to be slouched or slumped for hours on end, will give both mind and body a rest allowing you to recharge in every way. A study by California State University found the more people walked each day, the more energetic they felt along with improved mood. Win-win.
Source: Net Doctor | not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide