“Megan you have such great posture!”
I get this a lot and surprisingly so. To be honest, I can’t take all the credit; I grew up a dancer and good posture was drilled into me for hours every day and for years of my life.
I can however take credit for maintaining my good posture.
Now that I’m not dancing every day, I spend my time coaching clients (which requires little demonstration and mostly a lot of standing), hiking my neighbourhood, sitting at my computer for hours daily, and of course, working out in the gym. I am constantly thinking of how I can implement posture-improving habits. I think of it while I drive, I think of it while waiting in line at the grocery store.
I even think about it when I’m washing my dishes after dinner!
Become more aware
Okay, I’m not bragging or anything. Since I have started working more at a computer, I notice that I have to stay on top of my posture and be more conscientious than ever before. If I didn’t consciously work on my posture every day, I would eventually start to see it decline. And the fact of the matter is, this is true for everyone, regardless of how you spend your days.
So why can’t we just focus on posture improving movements in our workouts and hope that it will keep everything in our bodies in the best alignment possible?
Let’s consider this: How many times a week are we spending in the gym to practice these movements?
I know for me I tend to get in 3 workouts per week that are resistance training based. That is 3-4 hours per week that potentially focuses on posture. With 168 hours in a week, that is less than 2.5% of my time spent.
Think this will make much of a difference?
The short answer is no.
Don’t get me wrong, exercise programming can help with any muscular imbalances you may have; however, if you want to make any sort of substantial improvement then we need to be consciously working on it every day, even outside of the gym.
I would also like to clarify that good posture isn’t all about aesthetics. It is also about functionality. A very well-respected coach in my industry once said if it looks right, it flies right. This is especially true with our functionality in our bodies.
Our lifestyles make a big impact
The truth: our bodies aren’t designed to sit all day.
The body is meant to be squatting, jumping, running, lunging, reaching, pushing, pulling. Whether your use of chairs is mobility based or a requirement of your work, it can create a ton of imbalances in the body, thus leading to that poor posture which can then lead to pain or injuries later in life.
Another factor affecting our posture that we must consider is the aging process.
As we age, the body starts to deteriorate (brutal, but true). We start to lose our muscle mass and the lubrication in our joints. This can lead to compression of the spine and a decreased range of motion of our joints.
improve with small changes
So now that I’ve convinced you of how important posture is, how can we be more conscious of our posture from day to day?
Start with how you sit in your chair.
Check yourself out in a mirror and take notice or better yet, get someone to take some side-profile photos of you to look at. Pictures don’t lie and they are a great way to see where improvement can be made.
Some people may require an appointment with their occupational therapist (OT) to make any adjustments to their wheelchair positioning. Depending on how long you have had your chair and when it was last adjusted, this is a great practice to continue visiting every so often. I would especially recommend this if you have had any physical body changes such as significant bodyweight fluctuations or maybe you have started on a new training program.
Get an assessment done by a fitness professional
Reach out to us, a physiotherapist or a Kinesiologist. They will be able to explain to you (with respect to your abilities) what you can focus on that can help improve your posture over time.
When it comes to posture, the bottom line is that the biggest positive adjustments will be made over time by the small daily efforts.
Try choosing one thing to focus on for the next few weeks, whether it be to consciously drop your shoulders down away from your ears, or to bring your head back over your C-spine and tuck your chin slightly.
Remember, start small and be consistent; It’s the little changes that make the biggest difference.