The Importance of Posture for Adults and Children and How to Improve It

It is fascinating to me that the more that we look at improving our health and the quality of our lives, that we often look back the past to find the answers. The Paleo Diet became a phenomenon when it reminded us that our body’s optimum fuel sources didn’t evolve to cheese puffs and marshmallows. We still work almost identically as we did thousands and thousands of years ago. We are born with some 650 skeletal muscles for a reason. Muscles move bodies. But much as our primal ancestors didn’t eat chocolate cereal for breakfast, they also didn’t have a largely sedentary lifestyle. It is no secret that a sedentary lifestyle in front of some type of a screen is having a negative effect on our bodies, not just from the inactivity but also for our posture. Here are some basics of human posture and tips and tricks to be aware and improve it when standing, sitting and moving.

Posture is based around the spine and the proximate bones and muscles. Proper posture is important because it shows adequate strength in appropriate muscles and can prevent chronic injuries as improper posture can put stress on areas over time. It also makes us look tall and confident and we all want to be our best selves. Picture the spinal column from the side with the right arm turned towards your view, The natural curve is a slight “S” formation where the arc tracks towards the back in the upper to middle back, and in towards the abdomen in the lower or lumbar back. If we have too much of a curve at the top we are slouching, shoulders are forward and the chin is likely down and towards the chest. Try this tip and ask your kids to: stand up and ask yourself where your ears are in relation to your shoulders, are they in front or in line vertically? If they are vertically aligned, you are in a neutral C-spine position which makes you looks taller and relies on support from all structures that are supposed to be involved. Let’s focus on the shoulders: Consciously be aware and discuss and show your kids where their shoulder blades, or scapulae, are located. Pull them slowly together and down. What happens to the shoulders? They move back towards the spine and down.  The chest will expand and rise. This is proper thoracic spine position.

If we have too much curve in the lower back that generally means we are not keeping our abdominal muscles tight. The midsection is supported by all the structures around the circumference of the abdomen, so relying solely on the spine for support is detrimental. Try this tip and ask your kids to: try to increase and exaggerate the natural curve in your lower back, what happens to your stomach? It relaxes and expands. Now consciously tighten your abdominal muscles, what happens the lower back? It returns to the natural curve position. This is proper lumbar spine position.

Now let’s put it all together: Stand and brace and secure the musculature of the abdomen region, or core. Then we align the ears over the shoulders and keep the chin up. Finally, pull the shoulder blades together and down. Practice this in a mirror or take a video of it and observe your posture. Try it seated and walking with the same focus drawn on these factors. The more unnatural this feels, the more out of whack your posture is and the more practice and repetitions you are going to need during the day.

Above all else, we need to move and use these 650 muscles more on a daily basis. You are what you continuously do and posture is by-product of what we regularly do. Move more and encourage others to move more and posture usually follows.

Chris Tremblay

Regional Coordinator Atlantic Canada