What Is Good Posture?
The past 10-15 years of investigation into posture has brought us to a renaissance for understanding the effects of good posture on our human experience. Clinicians, doctors, researchers and health care practitioners are focusing more and more on posture and are finding significant effects of good and bad posture on living life optimally, healthyfully and happily.
No longer is it an admonishing by mom wagging her finger at you or recurring dinner scenes of your spouse reminding you to sit up straight at the table. The implications of having “good” or “bad” posture are seen very clearly as it affects how we present ourselves to the world, our emotional state, our ability to perform varying human activities and our overall health.
Defining Good Posture
When most people talk to me about their posture they ask specifically on how they can improve their standing or sitting posture. If you’re attempting to improve your posture like any other goal you wish to reach, it helps to know when you have accomplished the improved posture. The truth is my clients aren’t asking me how to improve posture- I could just tell them to “stand up straight” and “there, you’ve improved your posture”. What they are really asking is how to correct their posture so it stays in an ideally healthy posture for as long as possible. We’ll call that “good posture”. To correct posture you need to know what good posture looks like. So what is good posture?
Good posture is defined by the Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons as “the state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude (erect, lying, squatting or stooping) in which these structures are working or resting. Under such conditions the muscles will function most efficiently and the optimum positions are afforded for the thoracic and abdominal organs.” It’s a mouth full and clinically a good definition but how does it look in the real life to you and me? I consider good posture as the optimal way your body looks, feels and moves.
What Good Posture Looks Like
There are several positions to consider when determining good posture.
- Posture in varying movements
Since we are designed to have a natural balanced upright posture the most appropriate view for assessing posture is standing. In my clinic, I first analyze their posture from the back, side and front. There is an ideal posture we are looking for and it starts with the feet. The feet are a point of reference and connections are made from there. A person with good posture will have the following points aligned:
From The Side
A plumb line starting with the point just in front of the ankle and bisects:
- mid knee
- point of shoulder
From The Back Or Front
A plumb line going from a point equidistant between the feet and going straight up to the top of the head, should divide the body symmetrically producing:
- equal distance between knee
- level hips
- shoulders even
- level head
As a posture expert there are other aspects that I look into but the above analysis gives a good basic observation of posture. You can see that good posture intuitively looks, well… “good”. The body is designed to be balanced and when balanced you look more confidant, taller, healthier and happy. Interestingly, a research study demonstrated an association between body symmetry and higher sexual prowess, physical dominance, emotional stability, and fidelity (Scheib, Gangestand and Thornhill (1999). The study tells us that high body symmetry demonstrated greater personal vibrancy and vitality. Symmetry means you have good posture and if you have good posture it means you are looking great!
What Good Posture Feels Like
So how does it feel to be in a body that has good posture?
You now know that having good posture means you look good but it also means that you will be exerting less energy being in a good posture and that translates into your brain working smarter not harder. You see, the brain constantly receives information from your posture whether it’s good or bad. When you have bad posture signals sent to the brain, it’s like static on a bad phone line. This static interference disrupts equilibrium, cognitive function and even emotions. As my clients have reached a corrected posture they express with surprise how much more joy and less depression they experience. Many people feel a lightness they didn’t have before having good posture. This is because expression of our emotions are represented in our posture and our posture affects our emotions.
When your posture is good you have an open chest, a raised head, shoulders are rolled back, and the body is relaxed. A balance posture is more efficient and offers better biomechanics. Better movement will enable less wear and tear and reduce the likelihood of injury. People with good posture can expect to have less pain that can range from reduction in headaches and back pain to relief of discomfort in their feet. There is also a correlation between posture and organ dysfunction. The connection is through the nervous system and blood pressure is one such function linked with poor neck posture. During a clinical research study blood pressure lowered with the improved alignment of the upper neck (cervical) region. The effects of posture are profound and significant.
How You Move With Good Posture
Having good posture in a static position (standing or sitting still) is one thing but having good posture with movement is a true test of healthy posture. Imagine lifting a box, getting out of your car, standing up from a lying down position – all require integration of a body that is properly aligned, flexible and strong. Having good posture isn’t only important when sitting or standing, it’s also important during your daily dynamic movement. Healthy complex human movements are based in good posture.
Good Posture – You’re Worth It
As a posture expert I’ve learned and seen how good posture starts with a flexible, strong and balanced body. With a base of good posture in a static or non-movement state a person can build upon this. One translates it into good posture during varying movements that are felt as balanced healthy movements.
The most important piece of having good posture is being able to maintain it. Good Posture should exist sitting, standing, exercising or moving throughout your daily life and hopefully over your lifetime.