Your posture is probably not something you think about very often. You’re probably only vaguely aware of your posture most of the time, if at all. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that poor posture can affect your physical health, your emotional health (including your self-esteem and moods), and can also age you well beyond your years.
Poor posture bends your body into unnatural positions, which causes unnecessary stress to joints and muscles. Over the course of time, having poor posture can lead to back pain, reduced flexibility, nerve damage, chest cavity compression that can lead to reduced oxygen intake and other lung problems and even lower immunities because of tension in the spinal cord.
Aside from the potential long-term effects that bad posture can cause, there are immediate differences in your appearance when you alter your posture. For example, if you stand with your shoulders hunched forward, your head becomes displaced over your chest (also known as forward head posture and thoracic kyphosis), which causes you to look shorter. Your weight is not distributed evenly when your spine isn’t aligned, so you will also appear heavier than you would if you corrected your posture.
Forward head posture (FHP) refers to a posture used when the head is above the chest instead of in line with the spine, in turn, causing the shoulders to round forward (thoracic kyphosis). Over 65% of the population is affected by this problem.
In fact, over 90% of people who chronically suffer from neck pain and/or headaches suffer from FHP. With the chest cavity compression caused by this poor posture, your lung muscles are forced to work much harder than they are able to, leading to lactic acid forming around them, which results in chest pain and cramping.
Tension in the spinal cord resulting from this posture can interrupt signals that the spine sends through the nervous system that is responsible for controlling hormone releases, digestion of food, and our immune system. With your immune system unable to respond, you become much more susceptible to illnesses. In addition, the weight of the head on the body doubles, causing the neck, shoulders, and back to compensate by overworking to support it. All of these factors can lead to constant pain and fatigue, which will ultimately add even more years to your appearance.
Try standing at the mirror so that you can see your profile and drooping your shoulders forward slightly with your chin pushed out over your chest. Look at your ear and make sure that it is in front of the middle point of your shoulder, which would indicate that your head is too far forward. This mimics FHP. What do you notice about your appearance? Slouching and slumping tends to make you look tired or disheartened and pushes your abdomen outward giving the appearance of a “pot belly” while your upper back looks as though you have a hunchback. Not to mention that you probably feel “run-down” or “old” and less confident.
Now, stand up straight, with your head aligned with your spine, and your ear over the middle point of your shoulder. This time, the reflection you see appears much more alert and proud. As you correct your posture, you should notice an immediate change in your mood and confidence level, as well as your appearance.
The next thing you should do is to stand naturally, the way you would if you weren’t thinking about your posture. Pay attention to your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. Ideally, from your ear to your ankle, you should be able to draw a straight line. Taking note of where your posture is incorrect will help you take steps to correct it.
With your spine properly aligned, you are standing up straight. You look and feel lighter, taller, more confident, and in a better overall mood. It’s near impossible to stay in a poor mood if you are smiling and standing tall. Even your walk gains more grace and ease when your posture is correct, adding to a more youthful appearance.