Good Posture: The Secret to Enhancing Health & Fitness
Do yourself a favor—as you read this, take a beat and do a quick scan of your body. How’s your posture? Chances are that your sitting or standing there with a sore lower back—neck craned forward, shoulders rounded and a hunched-over back that only Quasimodo could love. If any of these ring true—don’t worry, you’re not alone. Thousands of men around globe would do well to put some time and effort into correcting their posture.
If you’re anything like me, then you too loath the way your poor posture is slowly but surely transforming you into an upright turtle. But have you ever pondered the fact that your posture could possibly be costing you more than an undesirable slouch and a tender lower back?
The reality is that most guys haven’t grasped just how important posture can be, not only to looking more man than hard-shelled reptile, but in its potential to significantly affect numerous aspects of your well-being and in turn, athletic performance—whether you’re in the gym or on the running trail.
What Does Good Posture Look Like?
Posture is one of the most debated subjects in sports today and it’s even piqued the interest of many medical circles. In order to learn how to achieve good posture, we must first have a solid understanding of what posture actually is. “Posture is a head-to-toe expression and representation of the way our body manages gravity and the response to activities that place demand on our body, and also includes what we express to the outside world,” says Olympic track and field coach and sport technologist, Carl Valle. It’s safe to say that there’s more to this posture thing than meets the eye. Coach Valle, is just one of many who believe that “posture should be seen as a combination of structure, alignment, mobility, coordination, and even physical and mental conditioning.”
Now that we’ve nailed down what posture is, let’s explore what good posture actually looks like.
If you’re standing—position your body so that your chin is parallel to the floor, shoulders are even, spine is neutral (no flexing or arching), arms are at your sides with straight and even elbows, abdominal muscles are braced, hips are level, knees are even and pointing straight ahead, and body weight is distributed evenly on both feet.
If you’re sitting—keep your chin parallel to the floor with your shoulders, hips, and knees at even heights, and knees and feet pointing straight ahead.
Boom—now just rinse and repeat for eternity.
Health Benefits & Peak Performance
Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all. It’s important to understand the number of ways in which your posture can directly impact your health and in turn, your physical performance.
According to exercise physiologist Kara Griffith, when your bones and joints are correctly aligned, it enables your muscles to do exactly what they’re designed to do. They’re able to work more efficiently, meaning you’ll experience less fatigue and more energy to help you finish out that grueling weight lifting circuit or help you firmly grasp that last handhold on the rock wall.
Less Wear and Tear
Sitting or standing crookedly, such as leaning to rest on one leg can lead to hip strain. “Your joints wear down naturally over time. If your posture is even, not many problems arise. But if you’re uneven, more pain and issues tend to occur,” says Griffith. Less wear and tear to your joints means you’ll be able to continue to enjoy your favorite activities with less discomfort as you age—all through the magic of better posture.
Good posture improves your breathing. “If you’re slouching, you’re compressing your lungs…If you’re sitting and standing taller, your lungs have more space to expand,“ explains Griffith. Chances are that one of your coaches along the way instructed you to stand tall with both hands behind your head after running sprints, and to resist the urge to crumple to the ground in exhaustion or bend over, hands-on knees, trying to catch that elusive wind. By standing this way after a high intensity workout, you’re able to get more of that sweet, sweet oxygen into your system for faster recovery.
Posture at its Core
If you’re one of the chosen who has great posture, then that means your “muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and supporting the body equally,” describes Nina Strang, physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist. Your core and upper back remain active and engaged when you’re holding good posture. So basically, if you actively work on improving your posture your core should get considerably stronger. Core strength is essential for everything from yoga, long-distance running and mountain biking, to trying to carry all the groceries into the house in one trip (I know you’ve tried that before).
In addition to all of the health and fitness benefits listed above, improving your posture can also help you become your sexiest self. Most guys who strive for a physique that’s more shredded than a julienne salad, tend to focus on sit-ups and cardio in order to achieve that coveted six pack. But they’re missing out on one of the easiest ways to enhance the appearance of their gut —by improving their posture. Not only will holding good posture make you appear taller, but by correcting your pelvic tilt you can increase the natural definition of the abs you already have. So, stand up straight and harness that inner sexiness without breaking a sweat.
Hopefully this exploration into the various physical benefits of holding good posture inspires you to increase your body awareness and motivates you to straighten up—because as we’ve learned, better posture leads to better health and better health promotes better physical performance—so you can train and play to the best of your abilities.