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Straighten Up for Better Health

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I've blogged in the past about my battle with my posture, because I have been a sloucher since I was a kid. It's something that makes me cringe when I look at pictures of myself and think "Why doesn't anyone ever tell me to stand up straight?" Having a desk job doesn't help, because it's easy to slump down in my chair when working at a computer for hours at a time. According to new research, thousands of people are losing days of work due to posture-related aches and injuries.

The report from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration says over 600,000 Americans have posture-related injuries (like shoulder, back and neck pain) each year. Anyone who spends more than 95% of their day sitting is at risk, so focusing on good posture is important. Remind yourself periodically to sit up straight, get up from your desk to stretch and walk around once every hour or so, and consider sitting on a stability ball instead of a regular chair.

Good posture not only helps strengthen your back, neck and core muscles, it increases oxygen consumption and can also help with self-confidence. "A January study from Northwestern University found that volunteers who were told to maintain a straight posture when sitting not only projected more of a leadership ability to others, compared with when they were told to slouch, but also said they felt more powerful even when assigned the role of a subordinate in a role-playing situation."

Poor posture can eventually lead to muscle weakness and a decreased range of motion. Activities like yoga and Pilates can help with flexibility and core strength, and regular physical activity can also help improve posture. The funny thing for me is that I have excellent posture when I'm running- it's just the rest of the time when I have problems standing straight.

If you are hoping to improve your posture but aren't sure where to begin, check out some Exercises to Improve Your Posture.

Have you ever had issues with poor posture? What have you done to correct the problem?

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Three things helped me with my posture: yoga, pilates, and a good fitting bra. Report
I didnt slouch as a kid but I had bad feet (I was born with clubfoot but you wouldn;t know it) as a kid then years of running barefoot in class didnt help any I ended up with flat feet if I didnt have it before,I recently started using my orthotics (they hurt sometimes but they do seem to help) Report
It's funny how most people commented that their parents were constantly telling them to "sit up straight," when my mother was constantly telling me "stop sticking your boobs out so much." My mother basically ENCOURAGED me to have bad posture. Thanks Mom!

After a year of Pilates, my posture has changed REMARKABLY. People tell me how much better I look, even though I haven't lost any weight. Report
In the past I slouched. I would see pictures of myself and cringe. I now try to make a conscious effort to stand up straight and keep my tummy tucked. It definitely makes a difference in my appearance!
I was recently at my sonís eighth grade graduation and was really surprised at the bad posture on many of the young ladies. They were all in beautiful dresses with their hair styled to perfection, but instead of carrying themselves with poise and grace, they were slouched over. Iím sure I was the same way at that age because confidence wasnít a strong point for me, but posture really does make a difference in how you appear to others and how it makes you feel.
I've had pretty good posture through the years - mostly thanks to my piano teacher who use to poke me between the shoulder blades if I started to slouch. People who get in the driver seat of my car even comment on how "upright" the seat is. But every once in awhile I have to remind myself to pull my shoulders back. Good posture makes you look thinner! Report
Never had a problem with slouching, but find myself hunched over a lot when I'm using the computer. When I find myself doing it, I straighten up or sit back in the chair a bit. Report
I have problems with my lower back, one knee and one hip, so I work on my posture all the time. The trouble I have is with furniture! I can't stand couches and chairs I sink into, recliners that don't have a fully-upright position, and awful soft waiting room chairs in medical waiting rooms. I am thankful I take public transportation, and have firm seats to help my posture. Most passenger vehicles have terrible seating for me. The first thing I do is get my car seat in an upright position, but often that is still very uncomfortable.

I also have trouble in cold weather, because I hunch over in the cold, in storms, etc. It takes a huge effort to stand upright.

I think it's odd there is such a focus on office seating, when our homes are just as likely to contain furniture that contributes to, if not necessitates, slouching! I wonder if anybody has looked into vehicle seating re posture? Report
I have had bad posture since I was a child. Even constantly being told to stand up straight didn't help. It also doesn't help that I have a dowager's hump that I can do nothing about. I try to be more mindful to sit and stand up straight. In fact, I'm much better about it when I'm standing. I'm absolutely the worst at it when I'm sitting at my desk. It's just so much more comfortable to lean! Report
My posture definitely needs work. I'm going to try to be more conscious of it throughout the day! Thanks for the reminder! Report
I'll admit that I was something of a sloucher when I was younger. However, that all changed when I started strength training on a regular basis. Strength training as well as taking pilates definitely helped improve my posture. I'm pleased to say that I am no longer a sloucher !!

I took ballet as a youngster (ages 7-12) and I learned some good posture from that. My mother also reminded me to stand up straight when I was a teenager. I am very conscious of sitting up straight when I'm eating or working on the computer. Back in the early 90s, when computers were really coming into the workplace, I learned about ergonomics, which still helps me set up my screen depth, height, and chair height. I also see a chiropractor every 3 weeks, which is the usual amount of time it takes my neck, back, and hips to need an alignment. I always feel better and stand straighter after a visit to the chiro! Report
Although I was a dancer for 18 years, almost a decade at desk jobs has given me poor posture. Now I'm sure the posture didn't give me 4 herniated disks (that was likely the dancing), the poor posture has made them so much worse and caused lots of pain. I have signs all over my desk that say "Posture!" and "Sit Pretty!", but I'm still pretty bad at it. Maybe I should go back to dancing... :-) Report
I am just reading Esther Gokhale's book "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back" which gives compelling evidence against the "tucked pelvis" explaining the damage it causes to both joints and internal organs. Her book is a beautiful picture of human form and posture and her exercises and instructions for improving posture and health are clear and amazing. You don't know posture until you have read this! Report
Yoga has made me very aware of my posture. Since doing it regularly, I even feel taller! Oh, and I look slimmer-bonus point! Report
Strenght training has been the ticket to improving everything about my posture.. It was difficult to straighten up but sometimes stuff has to hurt to get better.. Improved back, chest and shoulder muscles are vital in the fight against slouching and menopause stomach! Report
I have terrible posture! Thanks for the link to the exercises, I have always wondered what I could do to improve it. I correct when I think about it, but that usually doesn't happen until my back is already aching. Report
I was active in community theatre a few years back. the director helped my posture a lot .... she said to pretend there was string attached to my breast bone and the string was gently pulling up. That visualization helped me a lot. Report
I always thought I had good posture, at least I didn't have to be reminded to stand up straight. Interesting to read this blog now. Three weeks ago I went to my chiropractor with daily headaches and he told me I have forward head posture (FHP). Mine is due to previously having severe whip lash and working on the computer all day. Over time I had begun slouching at the computer. Now I am very conscientious about my work posture. Report
I'm a lifetime sloucher too! Except that my Dad always yelled at me to stand up straight! After he passed, it was up to me (I was in my 20s when that happened). I started doing ballet-base exercises to help - and they did! Once I stopped & drifted away from them, the poor posture returned. Mnay hours at a computer for my college degree and now more studying and job hunting has led to bad habits once again. I like the idea of a stability ball for a chair! The one I have now is not a good posture support...I may have to go get my ball! Thanks for the helpful blog - I'm glad I'm not a lone "sloucher" - I can have good posture if I just keep trying! Report
As a young child in school in England we were graded on our report card under deportment as to how we carried ourselves. There were frequent remarks from the teachers "Sit up straight"."Fold your arms" and usually "shoulders back". I never thought about it till now. I love to sit up straight.
It took Coach Nicole to teach me to suck in my abs though Pat in Maine . Report
My mother was at us constantly to stand up straight, head tall, stomach in back straight! At 88, she still stands straight. Though she has osteoporosis, she still has good posture. Report
I'm 6'1", so growing up I was always the tall one. I slouched to feel like I fit in with everyone else, but I'd kick myself in the pants if I could go back in time and fix it. Bad posture is a hard habit to break! I'm really focusing on working my core to give myself the stamina to stand straight. Report
I have the same problem. I'm fine when I'm working out or doing other activities, but when I'm at work I struggle. I do find that if I work out in the morning I have more energy throughout the day and tend to slouch less. Report
No, don't have a problem with that. Report
What's funny about my posture is that as a kid, I had great posture ó I was a dancer, so I habitually sat and stood very straight. But I noticed that it made me different, and I thought it might make me seem unfriendly to other kids, like I thought I was better than they were ... so I purposefully started slouching. And not too long after that, someone at Girl Scouts told me I had bad posture. Funny that she didn't notice that I had GOOD posture a couple of weeks before ó just that I now had bad posture, huh? ;P

I've kept the crappy posture on and off ever since then. It's definitely a good indicator of how my life is going ó when I feel overburdened and overall depressed, I allow myself to stop sitting proudly and confidently. Maybe there's a disadvantage to being too truthful. ;) Report
My employers recently spent a lot of money on nice new chairs and trained everyone on how to set them up properly. The chairs are really good and are designed to support your back, encourage good posture, and allow your muscles to relax. (as the training guy explained!)

When at work I am always conscious of sitting right. And I take every opportunity I can to walk around a little bit - instead of emailing or whatever. Report
I've often slouched as I took my walks outside for years. Thankfully, my mom has been noticing this and she reminds me a lot to stand up straight, walk with my head up high, and sit up straight whenever possible. Still, always nice to other kinds of reminders. :) Report
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