08 Oct Five benefits of great posture
Posture is happening while we are sitting, meditating, sleeping, and stretching. When we are active, exercising, working, playing posture is important in all movements. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, continuous, dynamic and an essential element to healthy living.
Allowing yourself time to work on good posture can be well worth the effort, and here are 5 reasons why.
Better lung capacity
Great posture always starts at the absolute center of the body: the breath.
Your diaphragm is an incredibly important muscle, responsible for respiration (inhalation + exhalation), or breathing. When the diaphragm contracts it creates a pressure gradient within the thorax. This pressure difference causes air to flow into the lungs as the ribs expand.
By practicing correct breathing it is possible to improve the mechanical efficiency of the lungs by increasing the space inside the thorax on inhalation. Like any muscle in the body, the diaphragm can be trained, and as the diaphragm contracts fully, we increase the amount of air we can draw into our lungs.
It is estimated that working on breathing we can increase lung capacity by 20 -30 percent. Not a bad pay back for 5 – 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises per day.
Supine abdominal breathing
Plank abdomina breathing
Developing good posture can often resolve niggling aches and pains. Headaches may suddenly lessen in severity and duration, lower back pain starts to ease off, and shoulder issues may resolve simply by working on correct body alignment.
When muscles are constantly overworked, stressed, or loaded in the incorrect way, pain can result.
This pain is often difficult to pinpoint. A massage or good stretch may provide some relief, but the discomfort returns. There may be a particular work role, or exercise that is creating a muscle imbalance which in turn establishes a pain cycle, overuse, mechanical stress, which starts translating into pain.
Muscles are designed to work within synergies, coupling with other muscles to perform their jobs. If our posture is poor, these muscle synergies can be less than optimal, meaning other muscles have to work harder to do the same job.
Align your posture, and all of a sudden muscles can start doing their job, bringing relief for that niggling neck pain.
Working on alignment can reduce mechanical based pain by simply placing the muscles in the right position so they can perform their jobs correctly.
From a physical performance perspective posture can be directly related to technique: form equals function.
An uneven muscle recruitment pattern can set up a dysfunctional range of movement. As with a knee that is tracking too medially, the knee joint itself is not placed in an optimal position to allow the tibia and femur to glide across each other. This will limit knee flexion mechanically.
The body will then try to shift position to remove this tension in the joint, which will generally occur at a joint above, or below, the kinetic chain.
If we take time to correctly position, and then layer in posture and alignment queues, then performance in itself can improve drastically.
This is simply because everything is doing what it is meant to be doing. The body stops fighting itself, and energy expenditure is optimized into producing quality movement.
Five minutes of deep abdominal breathing can produce a physiological state of relaxation by allowing the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to engage. The PNS is the all about restoration and regeneration, it happens most often when you are asleep, allowing the body a chance to replenish, restore and revitalize.
Deep breathing techniques, such as practice in meditation, martial arts, dance, Pilates and yoga have been used for many years to promote focus, clarity and a sense of calm. The art in these practices often comes with a focus on the breath.
Increased core stability
The link to the diaphragm and the core musculature is very important, and can require a fair bit of practice to really enhance the function of the inner torso musculature which is integral to spinal column health.
The diaphragm is one of the largest muscles in the body, with physical attachments to the lumbar vertebrae, in addition to most of the thorac. It also has a very important agonist – antagonist relationship the Rectus Abdominus, Obliques, Transverse Abdominus and fascia connections to the hip flexors. Essentially, when the diaphragm is contracting on the inhalation, the abdominals are relaxing, and vice versa on the exhalation. When these muscle are working synergistically a powerful connection to the spinal column is created where there is stability at all times during respiration.
Sit a little straighter, breath little deeper.
Allowing yourself the time to work on your posture will reward you, by:
- Improving your lung capacity.
- Decreasing postural based pain syndromes
- Increasing performance via correct movement posture
- Relax you, and chill you the heck out!
- Increase your corestability and spinal health
To learn how to breathe correctly speak to a movement professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, try a yoga class, or grab your matt and head to Pilates. Your body will thank you for it.
Andrew Dowler, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and exercise geek loves working with people to help them move better!