Poor posture is the new first-world problem that’s causing more mental and physical health complications than most people realize.
The human body was designed to move – not to sit in a chair for several hours at a time. Over time, bad habits lead to fatigue, depression, pain and headaches. There’s a reason your mother told you to sit up straight – poor posture destroys your health.
1. Worsens Depression and Stress
In a study conducted by San Francisco State University, students were asked to walk down a hallways in a slouched position or by skipping. Those who slouched while they were walking experienced increased feelings of depression and decreased energy levels.
This study and the earlier findings that exercise by itself can significantly reduce depression suggest that energy levels and depression are modulated not only by cognitions, but also by body posture and movements.
Thus the mind-body relationship is a two way street: mind to body and body to mind. We strongly recommend that therapists, teachers, and clients include body posture and movement as an additional healing strategy to increase energy and enhance health.
Source: San Francisco State University
When the body is slouched and constricted, it prevents it from working optimally which results in a poor mood.
When the body remains in a seated position for an extended period of time, all of your internal processes slow down. As a result, your energy levels decrease. You may start feeling irritable, tired or aggravated.
Slouching also causes your body to compress and constrict. When in this position, your heart and lungs are forced to work harder to pump blood and circulate oxygen.
This causes undue stress on your internal organs and your muscles. Sitting in an upright position with your shoulders and chest broad makes it easier to breathe.
2. Causes Digestive Issues
Sitting does more than just constrict your heart and lungs, it also constricts your intestines. This can make digestion uncomfortable and cause a host of issues. If you are experiencing digestive distress, you may want to take a closer look at your posture and how much time you are spending sitting each day.
Slouching has even been attributed to digestive issues such as acid reflux and hernias.
What the researchers found is that posture might be one way to cue our bodies to shift from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest, and alleviate some of the modern chronic stress burden, with the ultimate result of improving digestion.
This suggests that if you have problems with FODMAPs or lactose intolerance, lying down and relaxing after a meal or maybe even just reclining might help improve your digestion. In fact, if it really is just about the “rest and digest” mode, then just staying calm during and after your meal (no lunch at your desk, no eating in a rush) could possibly do the trick even without the posture.
Poor posture may do more than just weaken your digestive system; it may also cause you to develop that unsightly belly pouch that women dread. This paunch affects both heavy and thin women and can be attributed to slouching and poor sitting habits.
Slumping your shoulders doesn’t just make you resemble one of our long-extinct ancestors—if you don’t stand up straight, no amount of exercise will give you the hot body you’re after.
It’s caused by a protruding viscera, which pushes up against your abdominal walls.
To get a visual picture of this concept, think of what happens to an Oreo cookie when you squeeze it together. By sitting up straight, you will not only improve your digestion, but lose a few inches in your waist too. To fix your posture, you can use these top rated posture correctors that we reviewed recently.
3. Poor Breathing
The lungs function optimally when the diaphragm and rib cage can properly expand. Poor posture restricts blood and oxygen flow, which makes it difficult to breathe and speak.
Proper posture becomes even more important when engaging in physical exercise simply because the body requires a higher oxygen intake to meet the physical demands of the activity.
Even singers, who rely heavily on their breath, emphasize the importance of good and correct stance. It allows the voice to sound strong and to travel further without having to strain.
To really see how posture affects your breathing, sit with your shoulders and spine in a slouched position in your chair. Exhale and then hold your breath. Now, stand up straight and continue to hold your breath.
Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Source: Harvard Health
That vacuum-like feeling you’re experiencing is a representation of the breathing space you lose while slouching. Just imagine how much oxygen your body is losing simply because of poor habits.
The Correct Way to Breathe In & Out
4. Back, Shoulder and Neck Pain
Back, shoulder and neck pain are the most common effects of poor posture, and the most noticeable. Sitting in a slouched position at your desk for an extended period of time puts a great deal of stress on your upper body, especially if your body is not properly supported. The most common pain areas include:
- Lower back – 63%
- Neck – 53%
- Shoulder – 38%
- Wrist – 33%
In time, poor posture can also cause a misalignment in the spine and lead to even more pain. In addition, it also causes joint stress. Joints are protected by connective tissues that create a supportive cushion. If the spine is misaligned, weight or stress needs to be redistributed to compensate for your slouching.
As a result, your joints are forced to bear a heavier load that may be more than it can handle. Eventually, this leads to pain and degradation of the tissues surrounding your joints.
The most common condition that contributes to neck pain is forward head and shoulder posture. Forward head posture is when the neck slants forward placing the head in front of the shoulders.
This head position leads to several problems:
The forward pull of the weight of the head puts undue stress on the vertebrae of the lower neck, contributing to degenerative disc disease and other degenerative neck problems.
Similarly, this posture causes the muscles of the upper back to continually overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the forward head.
This position is often accompanied by forward shoulders and a rounded upper back, which not only feeds into the neck problem but can also cause shoulder pain.
A herniated disc is another spine issue that is often attributed to these habits. They tend to be most common in the lumbar region (The area of your spine between your ribs and your hips). The discs in your spine provide a supportive cushion for your vertebrae. When a disc is herniated, the inner part of the disc pushes through the outer layer.
This aggravates the nerves in your spine, causing numbness or pain in your arms, back or legs.
5. Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are another common side effect of poor posture. Office workers tend to experience more headaches simply because they are putting so much tension and strain on their bodies by sitting all day.
The tension in your neck, shoulders and spine eventually work their way up to your head and cause a tension headache.
Obesity, muscle tone, shoes and pregnancy can make you more vulnerable to posture-related tension headaches.
What’s happening in a classic tension headache is simpler than the physiology of migraine. Most tension headaches are assumed to be a musculoskeletal problem — bone, joint, and meat — as opposed to the neurological “brain ache” of migraine.
Specifically, most are probably cervicogenic headaches (“from the neck”), and probably consist mostly of muscle pain — neck and jaw muscles that are painfully tight, and full of “trigger points” (knots) that are radiating pain all over your head, and sometimes down into your neck, shoulders and even arms as well.
More often than not, these headaches are attributed to a poorly set up workstation. Desks and monitors may be too high or low; chairs may not provide adequate support; and computer accessories may not be ergonomically designed for improved comfort.
How to Fix Your Posture (NO MORE ROUNDED SHOULDERS!)
Tips on How to Improve Your Posture
- Invest in an ergonomic chair, keyboard and mouse. If you have to spend the day working in a chair, you want to make sure that it’s providing you with the support you need.
- Get up and stretch every half hour or hour, if possible. This will give your body a break and allow your organs to get the oxygen they need.
- Exercise. Focus on exercises that strengthen your core. A strong core will make it much easier for your body to remain in an upright position.
- Practice yoga. Yoga encourages good posture. A large portion of the poses require you to keep your shoulders and chest broad, which opens the lungs and allows you to breathe easily.