Medical studies continue to prove Mom was right: You do need to sit up straighter. While most research highlights the slew of problems poor postures poses down the road, there are immediate consequences, too. A recent study conducted at the University of Auckland in New Zealand makes the case that practicing proper posture can improve attention, enthusiasm, and energy. NI spoke with neurosurgeon Dr. Rick Bhasin from Naples-based Neuroscience and Spine Associates to break down the science behind slouching.
NI: Why is posture so important to overall health?
Bhasin: Having good posture means that you’re putting your body and all your organs into proper alignment. Everything works together better when it’s in the right place – if they’re lined up well, then they work well. Good posture helps your circulation, respiration, oxygenation, gastrointestinal function, and your neurological functions.
What happens to the body if poor posture is not corrected over a long period of time?
In terms of the spine, if you have bad posture, you can develop malalignment, which can cause herniated discs, weakness of muscles that support the spine, weakness of ligaments around the spine, as well as chronic pain. Malalignment can also affect all of your bodily functions, including those I mentioned earlier.
How can we correct this?
The number one thing is recognizing you have bad posture and trying to do something about it. Try to train your body to hold the spine in proper alignment – head over shoulders and not in front of it, shoulders over hips. Slouching puts the spine in bad alignment, and it takes a lot of mental discipline to fix it. You can also do exercises to build your core, and yoga and Pilates to help with flexibility and build strength.
App For That!
Even for those aware of a tendency to slouch, breaking the habit can prove difficult. The Upright posture trainer ($130), a small device that attaches to the lower back with single-use adhesives, holds users accountable by vibrating when they break from a flat-back position. The corresponding app, available on Apple and Android, designs a timed training program that, with daily practice sitting or standing with Upright in place, builds the muscle memory and core strength necessary to improve posture within weeks, and eventually once and for all. – Liz Petoniak