When you were younger, your mother probably told you not to slouch. These days, if you spend your whole day hunched over a computer screen, you probably understand why now. Just picture, one of those joke evolutionary histories of man, where he gradually grows to stand more erect as homo whatever-ens, and then gradually devolves into the hunched work desk or video game bound contemporary human. It is true that, these posters are not really that funny; but, there is probably some truth behind the joke: we have progressed (or perhaps “declined” is a better word) from a species characterized by movement, action and hardiness of physical health, into one of idleness or sedentariness resting on the foundation of an affluent, and leisurely civilization.
As we said, though, there is only some truth to the joke: it is true that this sedentary form of life is prevalent today, but it does not characterize the entire human species. On the one hand, our own civilization is not devoid of those who do physical work, or of who still live the erect, healthy-bodied posture of our hunting and gathering ancestor. On the other hand, we are not the only civilization in the world, and there are others – whose members are equally a part of the human species as we are – which are not characterized by this leisurely, sedentary lifestyle. To make a long story short: the human species, as a whole, has not become sedentary, but only those members which are found at the top of its hierarchy.
And what do we have to show for this leisurely, sedentary life we have won through exploiting the labor of others – the only way that such leisure can be made possible – ? Among many other things: poor posture. And poor posture, is not simply something aesthetic, is not merely something unsightly, in nature.
Good posture, sometimes referred to as “neutral posture”, signifies that your body is aligned properly, in a way that makes your body the most efficient, where the least stress is put on the tissues of your body. This is not just about the way you look: it is about being able to balance yourself and to competently move your body, and it is about being able to breathe properly, which in turn affects your circulation and therefore, once again, your ability to move your body.
So, posture is not simply a matter of looking good, it is a matter of being able to move and breathe properly. Poor posture can also cause headaches, as well as a number of other bodily aches and pains, which can even prevent us from exercising (which in turn forces us to become more sedentary which even further harms our posture).
And if that isn’t enough, poor posture can even affect our mood, as well as our relationships with other people. According to Karin Sullivan in her article called “Perfect Posture” (from Vegetarian Times, January 1999 issue), poor posture does not invite interaction and communication from other people the same way that a healthy posture does. Slumping, writes Sullivan, suggests that we are not open to others. Therefore, if we slump due to depression, this can mean that others will not approach us, making us feel excluded, and therefore even more depressed – and then perhaps even more slumped.
So, we see that in more than one way, poor posture can lead to a vicious circle which serves to create even worse posture. 1) Poor posture causes us pain which prevents us from exercising, which keeps us sedentary, thus making our posture even worse. 2) Poor posture or slumping due to feeling down, makes us unapproachable, and consequently feeling even more down, and then slumping even more.
And all this leads to the result that we can no longer breathe, move, or use our bodies properly. Aren’t you glad, now, that we’ve won for ourselves this grand culture of leisure?
Without further ado, however, here is the list of remedies for bad posture you’ve all been waiting for (that is, if you are even still bothering to read this article, and have not skipped out for a quicker fix, preferring not to consider where bad posture comes from in the first place):
1.) Get up and move every 30 minutes: If you have an office job, or are a student, or are addicted to World of Warcraft, you are going to be spending a lot of time seated at a desk – something that is definitely not good for your posture. As your muscles get tired of being in the same position, you will gradually, maybe without even knowing it, slump down to rest your muscles. To avoid this, try getting up and moving, going for a walk, or even doing a couple of squats or pushups, at least once every 30 minutes.
2.) Keep the soles of your feet flat on the floor: You may think it’s more comfortable and relaxed to kick your feet up, cross them, use them to tap the drum solo to YYZ, but taking your weight off of your feet only means that your back and your butt are going to have to pick up the extra slack. If sitting for long periods, keeping your feet flat on the floor should actually give your body more support, and therefore make you much more comfortable (even though it doesn’t carry with it the same air of easiness and relaxation).
3.) Don’t wear high heels: Sorry ladies (or gentlemen – we don’t want to be gender biased), but high heels change your center of gravity, and are simply not good for your overall posture. If you are in a situation where you absolutely must where heels, go for the smallest ones possible.
4.) Bend at the knee, not the waist: This old shoveling maxim applies to everyday situations as well. Even if you’re just bending over to pick something up, bend with your knees instead of at your waist. Think of it like this, it’s like getting a free workout for your glutes – and it doesn’t invite as many eyes towards your bottom.
5.) Keep fit: Just generally being in shape is probably the best thing you can do for your posture. By the logic that slouching occurs when your muscles get tired of being in the same position, then if your muscles are more generally fitter and stronger, then they aren’t going to get tired as easily, so that you can maintain the correct, non-slouched posture that is better for your body.
Think of it like this: the more physically fit you are, the more 1) your body will be used to the form that is best suited to movement, breathing, and circulation – and will be less likely to revert to the slumped, sedentary form. 2) The more physically fit you are, the more positive and less anti-social you will feel, thus avoiding the second vicious circle of depression – slumped – unapproachable – extra slumped – extra depressed.
This is not to say, however, that keeping fit is the answer to all life’s problems. It is certainly not the solution to the sedentary culture we’ve won for ourselves through exploitation. This is, however, a much larger problem than that of the condition of your back, and goes beyond the scope of this article. Still, the problem of posture in our society does point to larger problems – and these beg our attention as well. While we think, read, write, and talk about these larger issues, on the other hand, there is no reason why we shouldn’t do so with straight-backed, well-abled bodies.