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Feb 26, 2011

Improve your Posture through Exercise & Awareness

Posture is an important part of your health, but aside from having your parents comment on slouching, most people never get feedback or information about proper posture.
Good posture is a combination of a lifelong habit, a healthy body, and awareness. It's possible to fix bad posture, but it's a lot easier to start with good posture in the first place. Most children, as long as they are healthy and well cared for, have naturally good posture. But once school starts, posture may worsen as children encounter school related stressors, bad chairs and hours of enforced sitting. By the time we finish our education, we've developed all sorts of interesting postural habits—slouching to hide from teachers, slumping down in uncomfortable chairs, hunched shoulders that make us feel less visible, or leaning to one side or another.
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Entering the workforce, we encounter office chairs with no back support or even "ergonomic" chairs that have lumps and bumps in all the wrong places. Our backs aren't made the same, and differences in height, weight and body structure mean that one person's comfortable chair is another's torture rack. Posture correction is impossible unless the chair where you spend much of your days and nights sitting fits your body correctly, providing you with support where you need it.
Correcting poor posture is partly a matter of staying aware and partly changing the habits of a lifetime. Awareness is important in posture because most people with poor posture don't really know how they look when they slump, slouch or lean. Getting a posture assessment from a chiropractor or physical therapist is a good starting place: a professional can tell you what you're doing wrong and make suggestions for improvement. If you have a slight curvature or scoliosis, a professional can spot it and may recommend a brace or other orthotic corrector to help you retrain your muscles. Taking classes in Yoga or Pilates can help because many of the exercises strengthen your stomach muscles and your back, which can help you stand straighter. Stronger abs and back muscles makes lifting easier, reducing the chance of lower back strains, which can also affect the posture as the sufferer tries to avoid the pain of twisted muscles.
Ergonomic neutral posture chairs and keyboards keep your spine aligned and prevent unnecessarily bent or twisted postures, all of which can contribute to your comfort when standing, sitting or moving around. Typing can be hazardous to the delicate tendons of your wrists: a correctly shaped keyboard can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and associated pain.
The power of good posture goes underestimated, but it affects your global health. Poor posture can affect your stress levels and breathing, injuries from lifting or bending, and the way people perceive you. Women are especially prone to poor posture due to low self image, and it can create a negative spiral socially or at work. Better posture is an outward indicator of higher self worth and confidence, and people tend to respond more positively than they do to people who slump or slouch. For help with understanding the principles behind good posture, check in with a physiotherapist or chiropractor.

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