As children, we were often reminded of the importance of good posture. Our parents told us to sit up straight at the dinner table, and our teachers asked us to stop slouching at our desks. But, for many reasons, as we age our posture typically begins to worsen.
Most of us know that better posture can help us maintain better blood flow and stave off back and neck pain. But did you know that good posture can also boost your mood? Upright posture is proven to increase self-esteem and mood and can even build resilience.
Read on to learn more about why our posture and mood are so closely related, and how to improve your posture with two easy exercises. Plus, you’ll discover how the link between posture and mood can affect your bone health.
The Poor Posture Prognosis
First, let’s start with what I mean when I say “poor posture.” Typically, at the Save Institute for Natural Health, when I talk about poor posture, I am referring to kyphosis. While every spine curves slightly in the upper back, kyphosis is a condition that causes the spine to become more aggressively curved.
You may have heard kyphosis referred to as a dowager’s hump, roundback, or hunchback. It can occur at any age; however, it is most common in older women, and in some cases can cause a neck hump to form.
I would be remiss not to also mention the impact that technology has had on our posture. Today, many people have a “modern” postural disorder known as Forward Head Posture (FHP) or “tech neck.”
This is a condition where an individual’s head is positioned such that their ears are in front of the body’s vertical midline. FHP is often a result of increased amount of time a person spends hunched over a smartphone or computer.
Thankfully, kyphosis or a neck hump are not an inevitable part of aging. We can combat poor posture with simple exercises and practices. And, because, as you’ll soon discover, posture impacts our mood, by improving our posture we can boost our mood and reduce any negative feelings and emotions we may experience.
Changing Your Posture Can Change How You Think… And How Others Think About You!
Posture has been scientifically proven to have a direct impact on how we feel throughout the day. In one study conducted at San Francisco State, students had to walk down a hallway. One group was asked to slouch as they walked while the other was asked to skip and swing their arms.
The skipping and swinging group reported feeling energetic and happy while the slouching group expressed feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation.
In another study, conducted by Harvard Business School professors, 62 students were told to stand in either a high power pose (expansive and open) or low power pose (contractive and closed) for two minutes before an important event.
Participants sat in either a high-power pose (expansive posture) or low-power pose (leaning in, with legs crossed) for two minutes. Those in the high power pose group reported better recall, outcomes, and higher performance.
Good posture doesn’t simply impact how you feel and act, though. It also impacts how others perceive you. Studies have shown that people often respond to you based on your posture.
Good Posture Helps You Fight Stress…
We know posture can impact how we feel, and our feelings can impact how we experience stress. So, it is not surprising that posture and stress have been shown to be related. While there are many tips and tricks to help us manage the stresses of daily life, one of the easiest (and cheapest) is simply changing your posture to sit or stand upright.
It is proven that sitting upright can help you better manage and minimize any stress that you may be experiencing. In a 2015 study published by the American Psychological Association, 74 individuals were assigned to either slump or sit upright in a chair throughout the day.
The participants’ backs were strapped with tape to hold this posture, and then a stress test was performed to induce stress in the participant. The individuals who were sitting upright reported higher self-esteem, better mood, and lower fear.
Upright participants were less self-focused and less negative (using fewer first-person singular pronouns and negative emotion words) than those who were slumped. Researchers concluded that body posture could help individuals modulate reactions to stress.
…And Helps You Recover from Negative Feelings Faster
Bad moods are sometimes an unavoidable part of life. But our posture can help us recover from a bad mood, faster. Scientists have discovered that individuals with stooped or slumped posture actually stayed in bad moods for longer than those with straight posture.
What’s Good for Your Mood Is Good for Your Bones
One of our primary goals at the Save Institute is to help our community improve their bone health. Poor posture and bone health are inextricably linked.
I’ve mentioned that weakened bones and weakened spinal muscles can negatively impact your posture. But weak bones don’t simply cause bad posture, they can be a symptom of increased stress. This is because stress increases the level of cortisol in your body, which can negatively affect bone health by breaking down bone tissue.
On the other hand, when you maintain good posture, you’re able to breathe more deeply which helps alkalize your blood – a critical factor in preventing and reversing any bone loss.
Two Exercises to Improve Your Posture
Now that you know the benefits of good posture are myriad, you might wonder what you can do to improve your posture. Because poor posture can lead many of our muscles to shorten or weaken, it is important to strengthen and lengthen muscles that help us maintain good posture.
I love the Chest Opener and Shoulder Adductor exercises because they help improve posture by increasing shoulder strength and opening our chest muscles. Even better, these exercises take less than five minutes and can be done right from the comfort of your own home.
Exercise #1: The Chest Opener
Poor posture usually means our shoulders are rounded forward. This causes our chest muscles to tighten and our back muscles to round forward. The Chest Opener stretch lengthens our chest muscles to prevent this rounding.
- Step 1: Stand with your feet at hip-width.
- Step 2: Raise your arms to shoulder height, then rotate your hands so your thumbs face the ground.
- Step 3: Drop your arms behind your hips and clasp your hands together. It’s okay to use a band or towel if you cannot interlace your fingers.
- Step 4: Keeping your arms straight and interlaced behind your back, slowly lift your arms up away from your hips, bringing them even with your tailbone.
- Step 5: Keeping your head and spine straight take a deep breath and hold for six to eight breaths.
- Step 6: Release and relax.
- Step 7: Repeat this exercise 10x or as many times as it feels comfortable for you.
Exercise #2: Shoulder Adductors
As shoulder muscles strengthen, it becomes easier to keep your spine straight and head in alignment. The shoulder adductor is a move that is easy to do anywhere to strengthen and tone your shoulder muscles.
- Step 1: Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair that does not have armrests.
- Step 2: Hold your arms at shoulder height parallel to the floor in a “T” position with palms facing up.
- Step 3: Slowly move your arms backward and forward for 30 seconds without arching your back.
- Step 4: Repeat this exercise 10x or as many times as you can without excessive strain.
If you’d like to correct your posture, build bone and prevent osteoporosis, check out the SaveTrainer on-demand video workout class platform.
How can you describe your posture? Do you think you’re starting to develop a hunched back? What’s the main culprit? Have you tried exercising for posture? Please share your thoughts and stories with the community.