Improving your posture is definitely an overlooked necessity of everyday life. Looking after your spine during early adulthood can help prolong good spinal health, and contribute towards decreasing likelihood of injury and chronic back pain later in life. If you have a desk job it’s all the more important to take more notice of how you hold your posture during the day. Working long hours at a desk, noticing your posture can seem like less of a priority when you have a big presentation to prepare for, or a looming deadline, but making a conscious effort to look after your spine can help with more than just quality of life in the long term.
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Bad posture isn’t just limited to your workplace
But bad posture is not always limited to the working day, if you regularly commute to work in your car, a bus or tube making sure you’re in an upright position, or making sure you’re not looking down at your phone if you use public transport, are all things you should be considering. After work if you spend time in front of the television or watching Netflix, often people find it most comfortable to lay down with your head propped up. This position can put extra strain on the muscles that support the upper back and neck, over time this can also put pressure on the vertebras in the neck and cause them to wear. In reality, bad posture can cause discomfort in the form of pain across the mid-back between the shoulder blades, headaches, pain in the lower back, just to name a few.
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Changing your posture for short, medium & long term benefits
If you regularly suffer from these types of pains, perhaps you notice that you have poor posture or it’s been pointed out to you. There are many things you can do to help improve your posture to reap the lifelong benefits. If you notice your posture tends to slip while you’re at work, make a conscious effort to check in with your posture in the beginning. Correcting poor posture can take some getting used to, mainly because the muscles that support your spine in an upright position can become weak without regular use. Therefore these muscles will need training in order to support your spine again. While a usual slouched position may have you hunched over with your shoulders up or leaning over with your head forward, you will instead want to focus on holding yourself upright, with your neck in a neutral position and shoulders back so that your chest is open.
Consistency is the secret to “permanent” postural improvement
Progress with improving your posture may be slow at first, it’s quite common to notice yourself slipping back into a slouched position or that your muscles fatigue and ache more than normal. It’s important to realise that this is an initial teething phase of correcting your posture and is definitely a step that you’ll need to have the motivation to push through. Once your muscles have regained the strength they need in order to support your spine in an upright position, you’ll notice it becomes easier to hold it for sustained periods of time.
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Working out can help continue the improvement of your posture
As you’re developing back strength it may be prudent to accompany this with back and core exercises at the gym in order to supplement your results. It can be quite common when training the upper body to focus on the chest or biceps, but overtraining these muscles and neglecting your back muscles can lead to a more rounded posture. By beginning to train the back this can help to strengthen your posture, while training the core can help the supportive muscles in your lower back to prevent injury.
To strengthen your core, try regularly incorporating Planks into your gym routine. If you’re not a regular gym-goer then the Plank is an easy exercise to try at home as it requires no equipment and is purely a body weight exercise. Assume the press-up position with your feet only slightly apart, drop down to rest your body weight onto your forearms and try to stabilise your core muscles so that you don’t droop but remain strong and straight. If you’re new to the exercise, start with holding the position for 30 seconds and try to increase the time regularly to become stronger.
Back extensions can help with strengthening your upper back and shoulders. Lay down on your front with your arms out to the side and bent so your hands fall either side of the head with a little space in between. Keep your head in line with the spine and gently lift your shoulders off the ground. If you’re the type of person who finds classes easier to stick to rather than doing your own workouts in the gym, consider incorporating yoga or pilates into your weekly routine. Pilates trains balance, flexibility and strength using your core muscles as a base for most of the exercises. While yoga trains the core and increases your flexibility and balance, it also trains you to relax, focus on your breathing and your posture – a great skill if you’re trying to become more self-aware of your posture.
The best time to start is today!
Later in life, it can become more difficult to correct your posture or reverse any damage that’s already been done to your spine. Fixing the problem while it’s in its early stages can help significantly in your later years to maintain good spinal health and prevent injury from occurring. If you are able to strengthen your back and core muscles, so they support your spine as much as possible, this can also allow for a certain margin of error – so that if you do happen to injure yourself chances are you will have a much speedier recovery. As we age, our joints become stiffer and less mobile, so it’s extremely important to take care of yourself during early adulthood – so that you can reap the benefits in the future.