7 Ways Your Posture Messes With You

Poor posture effects our flexibility, leads to increased joint strain, changes muscle activation and strength and thus can affect athletic performance. Here's 7 areas affected by posture that you never knew.

1. Depression and energy levels
In a study from San Francisco State University, students were told either to walk in a slouched position or to skip. Those who slouched reported higher feelings of depression and lower energy than the skippers. That's no surprise to posture expert Carol Krucoff, a yoga instructor, author of Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain, and founder of healingmoves.com. “Even our language reflects this connection between proper posture and emotional affect; someone weak is called spineless and someone proud has a backbone,” she says.

The fix: Imagine there's a headlight right in the middle of your chest at your sternum. Sitting and standing, your headlight should always shine directly forward, not down on the ground. Now, think of pulling a string through the center of your head towards the ceiling without lifting your chin.

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2. Your career
Slouching doesn't just hurt your attitude- it can effect how people see you. “You don't want to walk into somebody's office slouching or bent over because people perceive you as not as vital,” says Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it StraightIf you are talking to a coach or a recruiter, having better posture will show them that you are more confident in your abilities to be a contributor on their team.

The fix: To avoid being a slouch at your desk try this: set a posture alarm or mental reminder (for example, everytime you check the time or when you send an email). Use this as a cue to pinch your shoulder blades down and back, imagine sliding them into your back pockets. Hold this position while you continue working.

3. Bathroom habits (yes, we went there!)
When you sit in a crunched position, your viscera (intestines) are folded up, too. Your intestines need movement to help pass things so prolonged sitting with poor posture can affect your regularity.

The fix: One yoga pose that can rev up a sluggish gut is the “Baby Cobra”

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*Remember: activate abdominals, push through arms as you pinch shoulders down and back. You should not experience any back pain with this!

4. Risk of death and disease
A recent Australian study found that after the age of 25, every single hour of television— aka: slouching on the couch—reduced the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. Plus, in a different study, English researchers compared sitting time with health outcomes and found that people who sat more, doubled their risk of developing diabetes and had a 147% increase in risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they exercised.

The fix: Don’t let the box beat you. Stand up and move around during the commercials. Don’t sit longer than 30 minutes without standing even briefly. Also, start off watching TV by sitting on the floor. If you sit on the floor, you will find yourself doing some type of stretching for your hips and low back minimizing the effects of slouching on the couch.

5. Poor posture makes you look heavier
Does this chair make me look fat? When you are slouched over, your internal organs have nowhere to go but down and out and you immediately look fatter.

The fix: The solution for this one is simple. Get up and move. When we stand as opposed to sit, we burn 20% more calories and strengthen our muscles, boost metabolism and increase bone density.

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6. Reduces your circulation
Our bodies are machines that move fluid and gases back and forth. Prolonged sitting, especially with your legs crossed, can reduce blood flow, increase pressure and even place additional stress on veins.

The fix: To get blood flowing to your lower body, stand up and find your best posture. Lift one leg up so your thigh is horizontal to the ground. Keep your standing leg straight (not hyperextended) and hold for five strong breaths, pushing your breathing down to your diaphragm. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Stress
A recent study from Harvard showed that when people who adopted powerful postures (open shoulders and straight spines) had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels (stress hormone)— vs. people who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. That translates into high stress!
“Shallow chest breathing strains the lungs, which must move faster to ensure adequate oxygen flow, and taxes the heart... [it] is forced to speed up... The result is a vicious cycle, where stress prompts shallow breathing, which in turn creates more stress,” says Krucoff.

The fix: Practice belly breathing: Rest your hand below your belly button; you should feel your belly expand as you inhale. Try the 4-4-6 exercise: inhale on a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 6. Make sure these are long counts and work up to doing this for 5 minutes, twice a day.