What Is Good Posture And How Do I Achieve It?

Good posture. It's the back bone of looking good, feeling great and staying functional.

You're probably aware of the importance of posture. Yet women over 50 often fall short when it comes to having a healthy posture. And forced attempts to correct posture, especially at this stage in life, can sometimes do more harm than good.

(Picture Sara Meeks Seminars Copyright 2001 Re-printed with permission).

The figure on the far left is standing in neutral or good posture. In this position, your body is in balance and...

  • You have less wear and tear on your joints.
  • The forces of gravity are traveling through your bones correctly.This helps keep your bones strong and prevents back pain.

Most of us attempt to stand at attention when trying to correct our posture. Try this exercise...

  • Walk around the room without doing anything to try and improve your posture. Notice how much effort it takes you to move. Feel it within your body.
  • Now stand at attention. Maintain this posture as you once again walk around the room. Notice how it feels.

Did walking around the room in an attention posture feel more natural? Did it take less energy? Was it easier to move that way? Good posture allows you to move with less effort. Trying to maintain an attention posture is not the way to correct bad posture.

Is Straight Posture Good Posture?

You will stand taller as your posture improves. But straight posture is a bit of a misnomer. A properly aligned spine has 3 natural curves...

  • The neck curves inward toward the front of the body (cervical curve).
  • The upper back curves outward (thoracic curve).
  • The lower back curves inward (lumbar curve).

A completely straight back when standing or sitting is NOT good posture. Correct posture maintains your spine's natural curves.

Tips For Good Standing Posture

If your standing posture is less than optimum try these tips...

  • Start at your feet. Have them 2 to 4 inches apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Press into your feet. Feel what happens in the rest of your body when you do this.
  • Visualize Pretend you're 2 inches taller than you are. Don't force anything - just see and feel yourself taller. Visualizations take practice, but they help your posture improve instantly.
  • Become Aware Take a moment and feel how you are standing. Is your weight equally distributed on both feet? If the answer is no, you're not standing in neutral posture. Schedule regular times to try this. Standing in line at the grocery store or when you brush your teeth - make it a habit.
  • Tune In to how you body feels, noticing any areas of abnormal tension. Can you relax those areas? Choose one or two times during you day that you normally stand and practice relaxing any areas that feel tense.

Tips For Sitting With Good Posture

If you have neck, back or shoulder issues and spend a fair amount of time sitting be sure to assess your posture.

Tips for active neutral sitting ...

  • Don't tighten you low back muscles or throw your shoulders back to force yourself into a better position. This actually forces your head forward and makes your posture worse.
  • Don't sit with your legs crossed.
  • Make sure the surface you are sitting on is the correct height. Your feet should reach the floor easily. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips.
  • Sit on the edge of the chair and tilt your pelvis slightly forward. You should feel a slight arch in your low back. Now imagine yourself taller than you are. This lengthens your spine.
  • How are you breathing? Remember a good sitting posture allows you to breathe easily. Your ribs should move out toward your sides when you breathe in.

You may only be able to maintain this position for a minute at a time. That's OK. As you practice it over time your back muscles will strengthen and you'll be able to maintain it for longer periods.

If your spend most of your day in front of a computer, learn all you can about correct computer posture and placement.

Why Good Posture Matters

Keeping your body in proper alignment helps you in many ways. Your bones, ligaments and muscles remain well-balanced and free to move correctly. Your lungs have the space they need to fully expand. Your pelvic organs are well supported by your abdominal muscles and function better. Correct head and neck position even makes chewing easier.

To better understand the importance of good posture try these moves. Don't do them if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia...

First practice bad posture. In standing, shift your head forward, stick your chin out, round your shoulders and slump. Then...

  • Try turning your head side to side 3 times, noticing how it feels.
  • Take a few deep breaths. How easy is it to breathe?
  • Pretend you are reaching into an overhead cupboard to get a dish with your right hand. Now try the move with your left arm. Again notice how you move.
  • Relax for a moment and stand as you naturally do.

Now try the movements with good posture. See yourself 2 inches taller than you really are. Don't force it, just see it in your minds eye and feel it in your body. Keeping this image, repeat the movements ...

  • Turn your head side to side 3 times. Notice the feel of the movement.
  • Take a few deep breaths. How easy is it to breathe?
  • Raise your right arm as if getting something out of an overhead cupboard. Try this with your left arm as well? How easily do your arms move?

See the difference. Did you feel how much easier you move and breathe when you are in proper alignment?

The Benefits Of Good Posture For Women Over 50

A sedentary life and poor habits of sitting, standing, moving and lying can cause bad posture at any age. As you get older the discs in your neck and back begin to dehydrate and your spine becomes more rigid, increasing your postural problems.

As women we also face a higher risk of developing certain diseases...

Osteoporosis is an excessive loss of bone density causing bones to break much more easily. Women are affected 4 times more often than men with this disease.

Scoliosis is a side to side curvature of the spine which affects 1 in 9 women. It can be a cause of chronic neck and back pain.

Frozen shoulder is exactly what it sounds like. The shoulder may initially become very painful and then loses the ability to move. This syndrome is found twice as often in women as in men. It usually occurs when women are between the ages of 40 and 70.

Women also live longer than men, giving our bodies more time to develop balance and degeneration issues. Good posture helps maintain balance and reduces the impact of stress on your body.

You can't reverse time. But with good posture and an active lifestyle you can maintain and even improve your body's ability to function - even as you age. Why not enjoy those extra years?

What if you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, scoliosis or a frozen shoulder? Schedule a consultation with a physical therapist. She or he can provide you with appropriate treatment and help you develop a postural and physical conditioning program to meet your needs.

One excellent resource for women wanting to achieve good posture is the book Walk Tall! by Sara Meeks, PT, MS, GCS

More About Posture ...

Correcting bad posture

Computer posture

Posture exercises

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