5 Facts About Posture You Need to Know

1. All movement stems from posture

Posture is a word borrowed from Latin literally meaning, “position”. In common conversation someone might comment on their posture in relation to how bowed their back is from sitting all day, or how their hips always jut our behind them giving them “a butt”. At its root the word means a great deal more. In human movement we use it to describe the relationship of one portion of the body – say, your torso – to another part of your body, like the hips. The torso might be in line with the hips or forming a right angle to them, or the hips might be open as the torso leans forward at an angle. The language we use to describe posture is the language of movement. More specifically, movement is the change in human posture over time.

2. Improper posture leads to improper movement

Since we know that posture leads to movement, it follows that when your posture is poor, the way you move will reflect that. Common issues that arise from poor posture include lifting with the back rounded, squatting with the feet on the toes, and pressing overhead at weird angles ill-suited to supporting weight effectively. The body is an amazingly intelligent, incredibly dumb machine: you can force it to do just about anything, even if you do it with poor form, and your body will adapt to complete the actions you ask of it. This may seem like a benefit now, but mismanaging your movement can lead to the build up of small injuries that, over time, result in huge impacts to your health and wellness.

3. Improper movement leads to injury

So, how does bad movement lead to injury? Remember in the last point we talked about how your body will do just about any movement you try to do, but if you don’t know how to do that movement properly, you risk injury. Small stresses over time can lead – slowly or quickly – to severe injury requiring weeks or healing or even surgery. Lets look at an example.

While lifting something from the ground, you should be maintaining a flat, supported back position while keeping your hips flexible and your legs engaged. This is the common form for a Deadlift, and we’ve found from decades upon decades of research that this form supports the movement we are trying to achieve. Chances are, though, that instead of meeting those criteria, you just bend over at the waist and pick stuff up. You probably haven’t noticed any issues if the weights you move are light, but if you’ve done this small error nearly every day for years or decades, you have two problems.

First, your brain is now wired to lift with a rounded back by bending at the waist. Every time you pick something up, your default form will be wrong. Second, you have now used your joints and muscles in one of the least efficient ways they can be used, placing them under extra strain and creating – however small – minute injuries to cope with. The results of these factors will be lower back pain and weakness unless training corrects them.

4. Improper posture affects your ability to breathe

Do you wonder why your doctor asks you to sit up straight while they listen to your lungs? In theory it’s because people breath better in this orientation, with the frontal muscles elongated and your chest volume opened up. From years of slouching (the most common postural problem in the “office worker” generation) your body actually become accustomed to breathing differently, so that just sitting up straight can cause breathing to become shallower. Since most athletic endeavors are more likely to be upright than slouched, your lung volume and ability to circulate oxygen throughout your body degrades and performance falls.

5. Proper posture makes you look slimmer, younger, and more confident.

Subjective studies suggest that subjects with proper posture appear 3-5 lbs slimmer than similarly weighted subjects with poor posture. The net result is that you are perceived as “fitter” when you stand up straighter and less fit when you slouch. An additional benefit is that a fitter person also appears younger – or better aged – and their clothes fit better, increasing their social presence significantly.

These are “perceived” benefits, meaning they help shape how someone else sees you. In addition, there is an actual emotional and mental benefit to better posture for you. When we’re happy and confident in ourselves, we tend to stand straighter, carry our shoulders “wider” and walk with more purpose. In contrast, when we’re feeling down in the dumps, these factors reverse. But this is a two way street: even if you’re happy, feigning poor posture can dampen your mood, and when you’re feeling off, forcing yourself to show good posture can help alleviate anxiety and nervousness. This is the ultimate “Fake it til you Make it” life hack; pretend to be confident and you’ll actually become more so.