Medical studies continue to prove Mom was right: You do need to sit up straighter. While most research highlights the slew of problems poor posture poses down the road, there are immediate consequences, too. A recent study conducted at the University of Auckland in New Zealand makes the case that practicing proper posture can improve attention, enthusiasm, and energy. PBI spoke with neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Theofilos, founder of The Spine Center, to break down the science behind slouching.
PBI: Why is posture so important to overall spine health?
Theofilos: It affects something we call “sagittal balance,” the hot phrase for spinal alignment. If you measure the spine from neck to tailbone, it should be a straight line. As people age or have poor posture, they start slouching forward, which causes the fulcrum of your body to shift. This dramatically increases stress to the spine because your shock absorbers are meant to be sitting on top of each other, not leaning forward with a constant weight on them. Uneven pressure makes the discs wear out quicker, and you can develop accelerated disc degeneration and arthritis. Posture if one of the most important things as a preventative measure for trauma and the aging spine.
PBI: What other ills can be brought on by practicing poor posture over an extended period of time?
Theofilos: When people start having spine issues, the chronic pain leads to depression and a sedentary lifestyle. From a cardiovascular and circulatory standpoint to diabetes, it’s a vicious cycle. There’s an increased risk of death associated with it. [It affects] confidence and [it causes] breathing difficulties because as you slouch forward you decrease your lung capacity and can’t take deep breaths.
PBI: How can we correct this?
Theofilos: Core strengthening. You have to keep your core and all the muscles around your spine and pelvis strong. One of the biggest issues with patients who don’t work out is as they get older they lose muscle strength in their hips. They can’t go from sitting to being erect, and under-utilization causes so many hip fractures. The more you move, the more your joints move, and the more likely you are to have better posture.
Dr. Theofilos’ Tips for Better Posture:
- Relearn the correct stance and make a conscious effort to practice it.
- Core strengthening exercises. Strengthening your core makes it easier to sit and stand up straight.
- If you’re someone who needs more than a reminder, try new posture garments that encourage good form.
- Use a lumbar roll when seated to keep from arching forward in your chair.
- Maintain a regular exercise practice and keep moving.