Our bodies were born to move, and exercise is just one of the important factors for health and vitality. So what other factors are important when it comes to exercise and healthy living? Over my next series of blogs I will be looking at Posture, the Core and Pelvic Floor.
Posture, why is it so important?
“Sit up, don’t slouch” – that is what I always used to hear from my Mother when I was a young girl. But she was right and most of the time I begrudgingly obeyed her command having no idea myself of the anatomical and biomechanical reasoning behind her persistent reminders. To be honest I don’t think my Mother understood either but that old adage ‘Mother knows best’ has that honest ring about it.
So exactly what is good posture and why is it so important? When a professional, such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or fitness trainer, refers to posture it basically means the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity. Our joints, ligaments and muscles are always under gravitational force, whether standing, sitting or lying down. So good posture helps with the distribution of that force through our body, so no one structure becomes overstressed.
Look at it this way.
An architect, when designing a building, has to take the same laws of gravity and weight distribution into account. So if that building has a poor foundation it will become less resistant to the stresses and strains it will experience over the weeks, months and years.
Apply this scenario to your body. If your body becomes misaligned it means it has to work harder to maintain an upright stance. The body will also call for reinforcements and use muscles that weren’t designed to take up the slack. As a result, these muscles become overly tight. This then has a knock-on effect to your joints and their supporting structures. Then those tight muscles will start to decrease your range of movement (ROM) which results in the body being pulled out of alignment. If that doesn’t have your attention then overly lax muscles will tire easily in an attempt to counterbalance gravitational forces and so the body will begin to sag. This in turn will have another knock-on effect as distortion of the spinal curves will increase placing greater strain on the vertebrae and intervertebral discs.
How do we prevent this from happening? To be mindful of the way we utilise our posture when we either stand or sit! It is as simple as that.
So what are our ideal standing and seated positions?
Correct Standing Posture:
- Stand, with feet hip-width apart
- Weight should be equally distributed between both feet and between big toe, little toe and heel
- Micro-bend in the knees and align them over the ankles
- Find your neural pelvis (watch our video below to find out how to do this)
- Slide shoulders down and relax the elbows
- Lengthen the tailbone towards the floor, ensuring your buttocks are relaxed
- Extend the spine upwards
- Lengthen the neck, keeping your chin gently tucked in and parallel to the floor
- Look to the horizon
Correct Seated Posture (relating to any position – floor, chair or stability ball):
- Seated, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart
- Lengthen spine
- Find neural pelvis alignment in a slow, controlled manner (see video below)
- Front of thighs relaxed
- Feel your body weight supported by the sit bones
- Slide shoulders down your back
- Lengthen the neck, ensuring the back of the head is in line with the spine and sacrum
As a trainer and group exercise instructor, I am always emphasising the importance of good posture and technique. Without good posture, your fitness workouts could be engaging the wrong muscles, whilst at the same time stressing other muscles and your joints.
So I’ve changed the mantra “Sit up, don’t slouch” to “Neural Pelvic Alignment ladies”, whilst secretly hoping I don’t sound like a Mother!!!
No matter what stage your journey is at, be it ‘before conception,’ ‘pregnant,’ or ‘beyond,’ when you choose your method of exercise and who you want to train under, make sure that your instructor clearly explains how to achieve good posture, how to strengthen it and how to maintain it right through your 3 stages. If you are exercising by yourself, then follow the simple steps outlined or check out the short video below where I explain how to find good posture.
Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy You!