You’re not off to a good start in school, you say? You don’t look your best, you don’t feel so great, and your self-confidence is shaky. Maybe you’re in a slump. Literally. Maybe it’s an actual, physical slump. Maybe it’s your posture.
That’s right, your posture. According to El Osboa, a site dedicated to women’s health, the way you stand, walk, and sit can affect not only the way you look, but your health, too. It can also affect the way other people perceive you, and that, in turn, can affect your personality.
Of course posture affects the way I look, you may say, doesn’t everybody know that? Maybe. But did you know that standing up straight can actually make you look slimmer as well as taller? That’s right: Straightening your back, pulling in your stomach, and tucking in your pelvis will make your waist and mid-section appear inches smaller and you, in general, pounds lighter. Try looking at yourself in the mirror standing in profile, first in a slump, and then standing tall, and notice the difference.
The Strain of the Slump
All right, you say, maybe that will work. But even if it does, how is that going to make me healthier?
For one thing, poor posture can distribute weight on your muscles improperly, causing neck and back pain and sometimes even headaches. Slumping your neck, head, and shoulders forward puts extra weight on muscles in your back and neck, and strained muscles in your neck can restrict the flow of blood to your head, causing headaches. Straightening up distributes your weight as it should be.
That permanent slouch can also restrict the blood that should be flowing to your digestive tract. It can even restrict your breathing, which means your body won’t get enough oxygen.
OK, so standing tall affects the way I look and feel, you say–but would it make me popular? Come on!
No Guarantee, but. . .
Well, maybe there’s no guarantee, but people with good posture project an air of confidence that other people notice. Standing tall makes a person look brighter and sharper, and it can be a signal to others that this person feels good about himself or herself. Others are also more likely to think that the person standing straight and tall would be more interesting to know than the one who is slouching.
But don’t get it wrong. Good posture is more than standing ramrod straight. It means balancing your body so that your spine supports you, and you are not overly dependent on your muscles to support all your weight.
Some Simple Exercises
But if you’ve maintained poor posture for years, some muscles, particularly in your back, may be weakened. Some simple exercises to strengthen the needed muscles:
* Rest your back against the edge of a door. Place your feet about six inches from the door and bend your knees slightly. Relax the muscles int the middle of your waist and take three deep breaths. Slowly straighten your knees and slide your spine up the length of the door. Try to keep your back flat by tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold the position for three seconds, then slowly slide back down to your starting position.
* Stand with your back against a wall with your heels about three inches from the wall. Place your hands up beside your head with elbows touching the wall. Tilt your pelvis to flatten your lower back against the wall by pulling the lower abdominal muscles up and in. Repeat the exercise with your arms overhead.
* Stretch your hamstrings (or back thigh muscles) by lying on the floor with your legs extended. Keep your left leg down and gradually raise the right with the knee straight. Repeat the procedure with the opposite leg.
* For another hamstring-stretching exercise, sit on a stool with your back against a wall. Keep your back straight and your bottom against the wall. With one knee bent, straighten the other. You should feel a stretch under your knee and along the hamstring muscles.
* To strengthen lower abdominal muscles, lie on your back with a rolled blanket or small pillow under your knees. With your hands up beside your head, tilt your pelvis to flatten your lower back by pulling up and in with your lower abdominal muscles. Hold your lower back flat and breathe in and out easily, relaxing your upper abdominal muscles. Don’t allow your back to arch when you breathe in.
* For another exercise to strengthen your lower abdominal muscles, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With your hands up beside your head, tilt your pelvis to flatten your lower back. Holding your lower back flat, slide your heels down, then straighten your legs as much as possible. Keep your lower back flat and slide one leg at a time back to the knee-bent position.
Start with a few of these exercises and add more as you gain strength.
An Added Bonus
Aerobics classes and swimming are also good ways to build muscles to help posture. As an added bonus, exercise and good posture can help prevent back pain.
The way you sit can also affect your posture. When you sit, keep your pelvis straight and your hips against the back of the chair. You should be able to slip your hands between your lower back and the back of the chair. Your feet should be on the floor, and your legs flexed at the knees. A chair that’s too high to allow you to do this may cause strain on your hamstrings and stress on your spine. A chair that’s too low can cause your shoulders and spine to slump.
Good posture takes practice, practice, practice. With practice, you’ll find that you’ll soon be on the straight and narrow, feeling better and looking good!