Posture Perfect

Mimi ON Oct 19, 2012 AT 9:53 am

How fast can you slim down? Many doctors say you can safely lose a pound or two a week. Various websites throw out more ambitious claims: “lose 18 pounds in four days” or “28 pounds in three weeks.”

There is one sure and safe method to look slimmer and feel better immediately, and that’s to stand up straight. While we know healthy posture looks good and makes our mothers proud, it can also help with weight loss. The muscles needed to maintain good posture burn more calories than fat tissue does. To hold your body erect with healthy posture, you must engage the core, mainly the abdominal and oblique muscles. Strength in these areas is called core stability. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Strength training is required to develop the core muscles you need for healthy posture, helping you gain muscle tissue that will work to burn calories even while you’re at rest.

If your goal is to maintain a healthy weight and avoid experiencing pain in your later years, monitoring and working on improving your posture earlier on is a must. When you slouch, your shoulders sag and your stomach is pushed outwards. This can make you look heavier than you actually are. Proper posture has the opposite effect. When you stand correctly, your waist is more defined, and your stomach is pulled in toward your abs. This can make you appear slimmer by as much as 5 to 10 pounds.

Tanya Fitzpatrick and Lisa Petersen are Posture Specialists from Align. They say people who improve their posture see positive results, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.   “How you feel about yourself is instantly recognizable from your posture. Recent scientific research proves, good posture affects your mind making you feel more confident. When you slouch, it looks as though you are trying to hide or take up as little space as possible. It appears that you are uncomfortable with the people around you or your current situation. People who have good posture appear confident and self-assured. They seem to be in control of themselves and their surroundings. A confident stance will help both your professional and personal lives.”

Eventually most of us will need to work on posture at some stage. “Everybody goes through stresses in their life,” Tanya says. “Family, work or just general physical body stresses all have a way of affecting posture.”

Do a posture check

When was the last time you evaluated your posture?

Lisa recommends the following self-check:

1. Take off your shoes and find a flat expanse of wall.
2. With your back to the wall, press your heels and bum against it.
3. Slide one of your hands between the wall and your low back.

The space should only be about the width of your hand. Anything much bigger and you know there’s a problem with overcurvature. Similarly if you are completely flat against the wall you are also out of your natural alignment. Either way, you’re in trouble and that trouble will be felt as tension and pain in your neck, shoulders, lower back and legs.

The benefits of a good posture.

Among other things, an improved posture can:

•     help you get more out of your chosen sport or exercises

•     make you look and feel healthier and younger

•     help improve your breathing

•     help you become stronger and more confident

•     decrease the risk of injury

•     prevent strain on your muscles, nerves and joints

Signs of poor posture.

Bad posture usually results from poor habits repeated over a lifetime. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even consider, let alone analyze our posture until we experience restricted movement or pain caused by poor posture.

If you want to do a basic self-assessment of your posture, look for one or more of these typical signs of poor posture:

•     rounded back

•     drooping chest and shoulders

•     head protruding forward

•     tilted pelvis and hips

•     collapsed arches in your feet

•     an elevated hip or shoulder
Causes of poor posture.

All of the problems listed above are potential indicators that your body has habitual irregular movement patterns.

The reasons for these irregular movement patterns can be wide and varied but typically include things like:

•     poor ergonomics, particularly relating to sleeping, sitting or standing habits

•     muscle and/or skeletal imbalance

•     untreated/undiagnosed injury compensation

•     poor or inappropriate techniques used during exercise and sport

Improving your posture.

Improving your posture is possible once the causes of your “symptoms” have been identified.

Typically, improving your posture means improving or changing your habits, some of which you can do all by yourself, others you should consider getting help for.

If you want to feel and look better, become fitter and stronger, lose weight or become and stay pain free into your later years try some or all of the following tips to improving or maintaining your posture.

Posture Perfect

1. Find your neutral alignment.

Your personal trainer or any of the other practitioners detailed above should be able to help you understand and recognize what a neutral alignment looks and feels like. Generally speaking, neutral alignment is where your spine is in its strongest position and is able to deal with external stresses and strains.

Understanding what your neutral alignment is and how to move into it while sitting, standing and moving will greatly improve your posture.

2. Check your posture constantly.

Try to get into the habit of checking your posture throughout the day. Using reminders like setting the alarm on your phone or watch to alert you every hour to check your posture will help you to form this habit. Another way to remind yourself is to use post-it note on your computer screen or in your car.

3. Vary your position often.

If you sit down a lot during the day, look for excuses to stand and walk around. For example, if most of your work is done sitting behind a desk, try standing up when you talk on the phone (standing while on the phone actually improves the sound of your voice by ensuring the airways from your diaphragm are clear).

Other excuses to vary your position include getting up and walking to the kitchen or water cooler for a glass of water every half an hour or so and standing up to stretch every 45 minutes while you’re watching TV. Whenever possible, go for a short stroll around the block or around your neighbourhood during morning tea, afternoon tea or your lunch break.

4. Strengthen your hips.

Misalignment in our pelvis and lower back can often be caused by weak or inflexible hip muscles. Include exercises in your workouts that stretch and strengthen you hip flexor, extensors, abductors, adductors and rotators muscles.

Any good gym instructor or personal trainer will be able to tell you which exercises and stretches to include in your workout and show you how to do them correctly.

5. Strengthen your abdominals.

Learn the appropriate abdominal strengthening exercises to train your abdominals to hold your pelvis in neutral alignment. Try doing some stabilization work using a swissball in addition to more traditional abdominal exercises like crunches and knee raises.

Again, if you are new to exercise or have never been taught how to use a Swiss Ball before, seek the expertise of a gym instructor or good personal trainer.

6. Stretch and strengthen your back.

Learn how to correctly perform lower back stretches and strengthening exercises. You can perform most stretches anywhere at any time. Lower back stretches are often great at helping to minimize or eliminate debilitating back pain.

Lower back strengthening exercises will ensure that your lower back muscles are strong and balanced with your abdominal muscles.

7. Strengthen your upper body.

Incorporate exercises into your workouts that help strengthen your shoulders, upper back, chest and arm muscles. Remember one of your goals should be muscle balance so don’t focus to heavily on one particular muscle group and vary your exercises regularly to achieve balance and continually challenge your muscles.

8. Vary your exercise program.

Try Yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates and consider including at least one of these in your regular exercise program. These styles of exercise emphasize alignment and controlled movement of the spine, which can greatly improve your posture.

9. Use imagery.

Visualize yourself as a giant gum tree reaching towards the sky; or imagine yourself growing taller as you stretch your arms above your head. Walk tall; concentrating on your posture and imagining yourself moving in perfect alignment.

10. Seek advice from Specialists.

Postural problems left untreated can have a negative impact on your health and reduce your quality of life.

Remember, the sooner you get help and start to address the underlying causes of poor posture the more easily it will be for you to change your daily habits and the better your chance of improving your posture so you can avoid other problems and pain later on.

Tanya Fitzpatrick and Lisa Petersen, Posture Specialists from Align. 1:1 session 60 mins £85 Clinics available in Harley street & Islington.


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