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June 2014

Importance Of Posture Awareness

by Kale Panetti, NPI-Certified Posture Specialist, Fitness Specialist ACSM-CPT

The not so obvious ways posture affects health

To define it in simple terms, posture is the positioning of the entire body at any given time. People are never without posture, and it can be static or dynamic. Poor posture can result from acute injuries, birth defects, or slowly over time. This article, I will primarily focus on poor seated posture as it is the most common activity among Americans today. Even if someone has relatively good posture they may still have poor seated posture and we sit a lot as a country. Poor seated posture usually occurs when the head and or shoulders "slump" and causes the chest to depress, decreases the amount of room in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. This in turn causes an increase in the internal pressure felt in those cavities. Most of the following health issues deal directly with this increase in internal pressure.


Increases the risk of constipation

Have you ever wondered why traveling tends to make you constipated? It's because you're sitting! Whether it is by plane, train, or car, traveling forces people to sit for long periods. Body motion is a very important part of the process of digestion. It helps the stomach physically break food apart and it aids the movement of substances through the intestines. Sitting, especially in poor posture, impinges upon the gut and inhibits the flow of substances through the GI track.

Increased occurrences of heartburn

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid escapes through the esophageal sphincter and erodes the lining of the esophagus. Slumping the head and shoulders while sitting or standing, increases the pressure inside the abdomen. Increasing the pressure around the stomach also increases the likelihood of stomach acid escaping into the esophagus.

Decreased lung capacity

Try to let your head and shoulders slump forward and then take in a deep breath. Now try the same thing while pulling the head and shoulders back into good posture. Big difference right? Now imagine how many people spend most of their days only using half of their lung capacity. Sitting up straight and practicing abdominal breathing habits utilizes lung capacity and decreases the breathing rate. This in turns reduces the hearts workload by providing it with more oxygenated blood with less work.

I have yet to find a study that links poor posture to causing asthma, but there has been research suggesting that it can certainly increase the rate and severity of attacks. This can be attributed to the decrease in lung capacity associated with poor posture.

Makes you look fat

Picture yourself sitting at your desk rite after lunch. You're getting tired, slouching, and all that food you just ate is sitting in your gut. Where do your organs go to make room for all that food? The answer is down and out. Slouching, especially while in the seated position, pushes the internal organs out stretching the abdominal wall. Over time these muscles are forced to lengthen and relax which in turn, relaxes the waistline. It is not uncommon to take inches off the waistline by tightening up muscles of the core and not losing any fat at all.

Dental problems and migraine headaches

Teeth are designed to line up with each other in correct posture. When the head is located too far forward, as is the case in most seated postures, it can cause ones bite to be slightly off. If this happens, it becomes uncomfortable and people subconsciously torque their jaw in such a way that aligns the teeth back up. Overtime this repeated adjustment of the jaw causes the muscle tension that can lead to headaches and can even affect proper ear function.

Hormone levels

Some recent studies have shown that simply adapting a "strong" posture can increase testosterone and or progesterone levels significantly in as little as two minutes. It makes sense when you think about how a pair of big horn rams look before they start butting heads. They have confidence in themselves and it shows through their stance and demeanor. These same studies also noted a significant decrease in cortisol which is a hormone often linked to anxiety and stress. Cortisol is hard on the body and high levels over time can increase the rate of aging by affecting skin and bone health. On the other hand, testosterone and progesterone are youthful hormones that help keep the body healthy and in shape. If simply adopting a confident or "strong" posture can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels in a matter of minutes then one can only imagine what 8 hours of slumping in a chair would do to those hormone levels over time.

Poor posture habits become harder to correct the longer they exist and often get worse over time, however, improving ones posture can be quite simple. It's a process that takes time and attention to detail but it can be done at any age.


About the Author: 

Kale Panetti - Fitness Specialist at the Wellness Center at Parc, Certified Posture Specialist through the National Posture Institute, and Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine

Permission received to reprint article from CVPH-Parc Wellness Center


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