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Correct Posture Explained: How to Improve Your Posture

Have you ever found yourself being the recipient of cutting remarks like “don’t slouch” or “stand up straight”?

At HSL, we have made it our mission to help you to understand the importance of having the correct posture. Learning how to improve posture can greatly enhance your health and wellbeing, enabling you to do more of the things you enjoy!

So, we’ve worked with our independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, to bring you expert information and advice on all things posture.

What is posture?

Posture is the term for the way we hold ourselves whilst standing, sitting, or lying down. There are two types of posture – dynamic and static. Dynamic posture is how your body is positioned during movement such as walking, whereas static posture is how your body is positioned whilst it’s still, such as when we’re seated or sleeping.

Why is posture important?

Correct posture helps you to balance by centring your weight above your feet and keeping your bones well aligned. It minimises the amount of strain on your muscles, joints and ligaments, including the spinal joints, which can cause pain and other ailments. Muscles can move in a more efficient manner, reducing fatigue and the chance of injury. It also helps you to maintain proper form when static or moving to ensure that your body can take on daily tasks with vigour.

What is good posture?

Having good posture helps to maintain the natural curves of your spine and avoids stress or loading on joints that can pull muscles and cause pain.

To understand more about good and bad posture, it’s helpful to learn more about how your back and spine work. A healthy back has three natural curves:

  • Cervical curve: An inward or forward curve at the neck
  • Thoracic curve: An outward or backward curve at the upper back
  • Lumbar curve: An inward or forward curve at the lower back

Now, if you’re unsure whether you have these natural curves and good posture, we’re here to help – most people will have problems without even knowing it! This is because the issues can be so minor to begin with that they’re barely noticeable, but the problems can develop the longer they are left unchecked.

Posture assessment

A quick and easy way to check your posture is to undertake this simple posture assessment at home:

1. Stand tall against a wall

Make sure that you are looking straight ahead, your shoulders are relaxed, and the back of your head is against the wall.

2. Place your heels approximately six inches from the wall

Keep your buttocks and shoulders touching the wall at all times.

3. There should be less than two inches between your neck, the small of your back and the wall

Ideally, you should be balanced with a straight line from your ear to shoulder to hip. A larger gap indicates poor posture and a curving spine.

What is poor posture?

Having poor posture or postural dysfunction usually means that the position of the body has gone against its natural spinal curves. The individual may be slouching with their head and shoulders bent forwards in front of the spine, which forces it to curve into an excessive hunchback or C-shape with bent knees.

Equally, the spine can curve into an S-shape where the head and shoulders remain forwards, but the lower back is tilted backward giving the individual a potbelly and placing excess strain on the spine.

Causes of poor posture

There are a few different things that can cause bad back posture, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Foot problems/unsupportive shoes
  • Stress/depression
  • Unsupportive seating – chairs that are too high/low
  • Unsupportive mattresses
  • Weak muscles, especially core muscles
  • Muscle tightness
  • Genetics
  • Lack of physical exercise/activity
  • Occupational demands

Symptoms of poor posture

Bad posture can cause problems that can build up over time and become a real hindrance to your day-to-day life.

Julie says, “forward curvature of the spine (or bad posture) places the weight of the head and shoulders forward and downwards, which can:

  • Put strain on the spine – contributing to neck and backaches
  • Compress the chest – contributing to chest pain
  • Increase pressure on lungs and respiratory muscles – contributing to breathlessness
  • Compress the air in the chest – contributing to postural hypotension, faintness, tiredness and/or physical fatigue
  • Compress the stomach – causing stomach pains/digestive difficulties.”

Some more symptoms of poor posture are shown below:

Poor circulation

When you slouch so does your spine, which can have an impact on your body’s circulation system, making it harder to breathe and move about.

Aches and pains

Poor posture can cause your spine to deteriorate over time, leading to neck, back and shoulder pains, which in turn can cause headaches.

Fatigue

Poor posture will put extra strain and demand on your joints and muscles, leading to fatigue; coupled with poor circulation, where the body does not get enough oxygen, muscles and joints are more easily damaged and less likely to repair well.

Loss of movement

A significant impact of poor posture can be loss of movement; all your joints have a range of motion that they are capable of, allowing you to move your body flexibly and respond to the activities of daily living. Poor posture prevents the normal range of motion from occurring, which, over time, will lead to muscle and joint deterioration and a reduction in movement.

Weight

As a nation, weight issues are becoming more common and as we get older, we tend to put on more weight through natural body and lifestyle changes, and reduced activity. Weight gain changes how our skeleton and muscles support themselves, which in turn affects our centre of gravity.

Loss of independence

Having poor posture can lead to a loss of independence over time. Increased aches and pains, damaged muscles and joints, poor circulation and reduced activity, plus increased weight gain can lead to additional health problems and increased risk of accident, such as falls, leading to injury.

 

How to improve posture: The dos and don’ts

Improving your posture can help you to realign your body and feel better for it. Here are some general tips and advice if you’re wondering how to correct your posture:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – to reduce the amount of weight and pressure on your body
  • Exercise – essential as part of a healthy lifestyle for weight management, strengthening muscles and encouraging a good range of motion in your joints. Try to do a mixture of cardio and weight-bearing exercise; the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week
  • Practice sitting and walking properly – this will help you to correct bad posture and make maintaining the correct posture a natural habit
  • Making small changes like this can bring huge benefits to your general health and wellbeing

Next, we share our expert advice on how to improve your posture when sitting, standing, walking and sleeping.

How to improve posture while sitting

Maintaining good sitting posture is vital – especially if you spend hours sat working at a desk or reading on the sofa. To avoid the effects of bad posture, follow these simple steps:

Do Don’t
Ensure your feet are firmly flat on the floor Keep your back completely straight
Sit your bottom at the back of the seat so your lower back is supported Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet tucked underneath
Make sure your legs and hips are fully supported Cross your legs above the knees, as this causes strain and poor circulation
Keep your head straight – not tilted up or down Tilt your head down or up for long periods as this will strain the muscles in your neck
Keep your shoulders back and relaxed Hunch over or tense your shoulders
Put your forearms comfortably on the armrest Leave your arms unsupported

If you’d like more information, read our good seating posture guide.

Learn how to improve your posture while sitting with these tips.

How to correct standing posture

Many of us have never given much thought to our standing posture, but that’s part of the problem. We become so used to how we stand that we’re often not even aware of whether it’s good or bad. Be mindful and follow these simple dos and don’ts if you’re wondering how to fix your standing posture:

Do Don’t
Keep your shoulders back and aligned with your hips Stick your chest out or arch your back
Use your stomach muscles to keep your body straighter Stand in the same position for too long – move regularly and shift your weight
Slightly bend your knees to ease pressure from your hips Hyperextend your knees as this places unnecessary strain on them
Use good-quality shoes that fit well Wear high heels when standing for long periods
Correct standing posture means standing tall with your shoulders relaxed.

How to fix bad walking posture

Who knew that there was a way to walk properly? We’re here to tell you that there most certainly is, and correct walking posture can help to lessen the strain on your joints and muscles, prevent pain, increase your range of motion and improve efficiency. Good walking posture isn’t rocket science, simply follow these tips:

Do Don’t
Strike the ground with your heel first and then roll onto your toes Look down at your feet
Look forwards – at a level several feet away from you Arch your back
Keep your stomach and buttocks in line with the rest of your body Hunch your shoulders
Learning how to fix posture when walking can do wonders for your health.

How to get good sleeping posture

When you sleep, the muscles and ligaments in your body relax and heal, so finding a good sleeping posture is essential – unless you want to wake up feeling stiff. We recommend investing in a good quality mattress and bed, so that you are comfortable and fully supported, then follow these tips for how to correct bad sleeping posture:

Do Don’t
Use a firm mattress that provides just enough support Sleep on a mattress that is too soft, as this will misalign your spine
Minimise spinal curves by using pillows Sleep with a lot of pillows that cause your neck to bend unnaturally, or sleep without a pillow
Sleep on your back with your head, neck and spine aligned Sleep on your stomach as this puts pressure through the neck and lower back
Try five minutes of gentle stretching before you going to bed to ease tense muscles If you need to sleep upright because of breathing difficulties, make sure your shoulders and neck are fully supported
Try two-five minutes of relaxation/deep breathing to improve oxygen flow and prepare your body for sleep Look at screens like your phone or TV before going to bed as the blue light can keep you awake

For more information on the importance of sleep, and how posture affects it, read our article on Your Sleep Matters or The Best Sleeping Positions.

Fix your sleeping posture to protect your spine and get a better night’s sleep.

We hope that this article has shown you how to improve your posture. If you’re keen to learn even more about the benefits of correct posture, take a look at our post on How Can Good Posture Help Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing?.

We ensure that all our products promote proper posture. Our in-store Comfort Specialists have been trained by our Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC, to do a 7-Point Seating Assessment™ before advising you on the right CleverComfort™ designed chair, sofa, or bed for you.

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