Mention the word “slouching,” and most people think immediately of the the kind of posture that comes with sitting in a chair all day. But posture – good or bad – is always happening, whether you’re sitting, standing, lying down or moving around. Here are 5 quick tips for maintaining good posture while on the go.
Tip #1. Standing in Line at the Grocery Store or Bank (or Anywhere Else)
Posture is not a static event, as most people think. It’s actually constructed of many reflexive micro-movements of your trunk (when sitting) and whole body (when standing.) These micro-movements sort of bounce off of one another. What this means is static posture is an average of all the tiny changes in direction that are constantly happening.
You can use this bit of information to your advantage, especially when you’re waiting in line with little else to do.
Consider consciously leaning forward at your ankles (a whole body lean) and then bringing yourself as far back as you can without losing your balance. This helps develops body awareness which – a key first step towards good posture. You’ll also meet your kinesphere – simply a fancy name for an imaginary bubble around you that encompasses your entire reach space. (Once you have to take a step in any direction, this is no longer the same “kinesphere;” it’s a new one.) Awareness of this personal space bubble can further develop body awareness, as well as help prevent injury and develop graceful movements.
When standing still, check your knees for locking. It’s best for these joints if you maintain a little bend in them. Locking wears out the joint faster and also can throw the rest of your body alignment off, which may lead to strain or injury.
Tip #2. Driving
When you take the driver’s seat, exactly where do you position it for healthiest posture? If it’s too far back, it may encourage you to slouch – either in your low back, or in your whole back (as you lean forward to see and reach the wheel,) or both. Either position, but especially the low back slouching can be harmful to your discs.
So what do you do? If possible, slide the seat forward until you’re upright on your two sitting bones, which are located on the underside of your pelvis. You might even use seat position as an opportunity to “force” yourself in to experiencing supported posture for longer than you normally would.
This is good training: Sitting right on top of those two bones provides the foundation for excellent body posture.
Tip #3.Carrying Luggage, Purses and Bags
When you have a lot of stuff to carry – whether it’s your luggage, your school books, or your groceries, two main principles of posture can help you avoid strain.
First, keep loads close to your body. Basic biomechanics dictates that loads held closer to the body are easier to lift and manage than loads held away from the body.
The other principle is to remember that for the most part, you are a symmetrical being. So rather than slinging a heavy bag over one shoulder and carrying the groceries in that arm, too, why not distribute the load more evenly – between both arms?
And while we’re talking about it, shoulder bags – especially if you tend to tote a lot of stuff around – is not very symmetry-friendly. If you always have a lot of things to carry, perhaps a backpack would be a better choice.
Tip #4. Exercise
If you walk or run for exercise, you may have a favorite route. (I know I do.) The problem is, if you traverse this same route every day, your body alignment suffers. This is because the challenge you put to your weight bearing joints (i.e., in the feet, ankles knees, hips and even the spine to some extent) is also the same every day. This limits the conditioning you give your muscles and sets up imbalance, where some of the muscles that surround and control the joints are extra-strong while others sort of shut down.
And there there’s the loss of agility and coordination that can result from the lack of training in all possible movements of the joints when you don’t vary your routine. All of these – agility, coordination and muscle conditioning play important roles in injury prevention, pain management, good posture and so much more.
So make tweaks to your regular walking or running routine every day. Try new streets, new paths, purposely take a hill or two – either up or down, and try different sides of the street. If safety is a factor, you could certainly walk a zig-zagged path on your familiar road – and vary the size of it: Make some of them big wide and others narrow. Using variety in your walking routine will help you extract more benefits from times spend exercising.
Tip #5. At Home
Even when you rest, posture is going on, and it needs a balanced form of support. When sitting at the dinner table, or on the couch, a great way to provide support to your whole body is to start with your pelvis. Just as we discussed above in the section on driving, a balanced position of the pelvis provides the foundation for good alignment for the rest of you – both above (hips, spine, shoulders, neck, head) and below (legs, knees, ankles, feet.) That said, changing positions regularly will help you avoid fatiguing your posture muscles.
When sleeping, use pillows to support your spine as needed. Key guidelines for this include keeping your head in line with your spine (i.e., give enough cushion to keep your head from tilting down, but not so much that it’s propped up higher than your spine.
And finally, avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially if you have facet joint pain or spinal arthritis. It’s generally not comfortable, and if you have either of these conditions, it could make your pain worse.