When told to stand up straight, you might be tempted to go into full military salute stance – shoulders thrown back, chest thrust forward, arms at your side. Truly proper posture isn't really "straight." Your body isn't built out of 90-degree angles, after all.
Postural dynamics will change whether you're standing, sitting, or engaged in a specific activity, like raking leaves or shovelling snow, but the basic elements of good posture remain the same.
Good sitting posture looks like this:
- your head: Many of us jut our chins forward, when we should really tuck it down slightly. To do this, imagine a string gently pulling your head up and straight so your ears are in line with your shoulders.
- your shoulders and arms: Let your shoulders relax down your back so your chest can feel more open. If you're working at a table, your forearms should be parallel with the ground.
- your stomach: Lightly engage your abdominal muscles so your belly stays comfortably tucked. This supports your lower back. If you can, adjust your chair to lend extra support.
- your back: Sitting up straight at 90 degrees unnecessarily strains your back. Lean back at an angle of up to 135 degrees.
- your legs: Keep your legs uncrossed. Spread your weight along the length of both thighs, which are parallel to the floor.
- your knees: Arrange yourself so your knees are at or just above the level of your hips. Let a small gap remain between your knees and your chair.
- your ankles: Angle your ankles forward so they're out in front of knees. No 90-degree angles!
- your feet: Plant your feet flat on the floor. If your feet don't reach the ground, adjust your seat or use a footrest.
Good standing posture looks like this:
- your head: The same head rules apply as when you're sitting. Tuck your chin slightly and let that imaginary string lightly lift from the top of your head and align your ears with your shoulders.
- your shoulders and arms: Roll back your shoulders so it feels as though they're cascading down your back. Your arms should effortlessly hang at your sides.
- your stomach and back: As with your sitting posture, you need to support your lower back as you stand. So, lightly engage your abdominal muscles to feel your stomach tuck toward your back.
- your knees: Let your knees slightly bend forward to avoid locking.
- your feet: Position your feet so they are shoulder-width apart, and distribute your weight evenly across both feet. If you stand for long periods of time, like while working or cooking, shift your weight from one foot to the other, wear supportive footwear, and lay down a rubber mat to cushion your feet.
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