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Sit Up Straight – Pass it On

As a kid, how many times did your mum or dad tell you to “Sit up straight” or “Stand up straight”? Do you find yourself as a parent saying to your kids, “Stop slouching”? We all have been told that it is important to have good posture but what exactly is good posture AND why is it so important?

Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture:

  • Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.

  • Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.

  • Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.

  • Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.

  • Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.

  • Prevents strain or overuse problems.

  • Prevents backache and muscular pain.

  • Contributes to a good appearance.

If you spend too long in a ‘bad’ posture there are a number of side effects, some short term and others that can lead to long term problems. Putting excess strain on the ligaments and joints throughout the body through poor posture can lead to:

  • Soreness & Pain – most commonly in the neck and lower back.

  • Poor circulation – especially in the lower limbs if you have a tendency to sit with your legs crossed.

  • Negative mood – some studies have shown that “slouched” postures can emphasise low self-esteem and depression.

  • Increased stress – in a vicious cycle, poor posture can cause physical stress on the body which, in turn, can cause psychological stress. The pain/stress cycle then continues as the psychological stress causes negative moods further encouraging poor posture.

  • Poor digestion.

  • Fatigue – when you have poor posture, your body works harder to maintain an upright posture.

The opposite is then true of good posture. People who maintain a good, or correct posture tend to present with lower incidents of neck and back pain, have improved moods and self-esteem, and are often less stressed than their poor posture counterparts.

Practicing good posture is important and very easy to do. When standing, take a moment to check that your weight is evenly placed through your feet, draw your shoulders back and down, and imagine there is a string from the top of your head drawing you towards the roof. Gently draw your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core muscles.

When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor or supported on a foot rest. If you are sitting on a chair or couch with a backrest, ensure that you are sitting to the back of the chair rather than perching on the front edge. If needed, you can place a small cushion or a rolled up towel into the small of the back for extra support.

In this age of smaller/smarter technology, we also tend to spend a lot of time looking down at screens on phones, tablets and laptop computers. This is leading to an increase in neck pain and headaches largely related to posture, so it is important to either limit your time spent on these devices or take regular ‘posture’ breaks during the day to reset your muscles and joints.


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