One of the most common pieces of advice that a parent conveys to a child is to “stand up straight.” Those parents are right: posture is an important concern. For one thing, it impacts our balance. Plus, poor alignment can be a contributing factor in the development of chronic pain conditions.
In terms of balance, adopting better posture centralizes your weight directly over your feet, making it easier to perform day-to-day tasks and achieve your fitness goals with a lower likelihood of injury. As a defense against chronic pain, strong posture improves muscular efficiency, reduces spinal ligament stress, minimizes abnormal joint wearing, and prevents strain.
Here are strategies to improve body alignment so that you can achieve long-lasting balance and comfort:
Move into the ideal position when sitting.
Getting to better posture is, in part, about knowing what goes where. When you are in a seated position, you want your feet either on the floor or a footrest, with your legs uncrossed. Maintain a small gap between the edge of your seat and back of your knee. Make sure your knees are no higher than your hips and that your ankles are in front of your knees. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your forearms parallel with the ground. Move the backrest so that it supports your lower back. Adjust your position regularly.
Use the best position when standing.
Sitting is, of course, not the only position in which the way you hold your body is important. To improve body alignment when standing, move most of your weight to the balls of your feet, bend your knees a bit, and line up your feet with your shoulders. Raise your head and pull back your shoulders, with your arms hanging loosely and your stomach pulled in. Align your earlobes with your shoulders. Finally, change the way you distribute weight to your feet during long stretches of standing.
Leverage exercises to improve your posture.
Better alignment of your body can be achieved through regular exercise, and the improved posture lowers your risk of injury and bolsters the effectiveness of conditioning. Aerobic conditioning of the body, through bicycling, swimming, or walking, will make it easier for you to maintain strong alignment. Plus, more direct strengthening exercises will build up the muscles that support the back. Note that achieving better posture and supporting the upper body also requires a strong core, so include exercises that focus on that area as well.