Many individuals participate in some form of physical activity or sport to achieve their own personal fitness goals. Actively engaging in exercise offers many benefits, from strengthening the bones and muscles and controlling weight to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease but, unfortunately for many individuals, injuries can frequently occur. The truth is, exercising with an improper posture can cause a wide variety of complications on the spine, knees, hips and shoulders, including numerous structural issues such as muscle tightness, joint pain and the potential increase of injuries. Many individuals struggle to correct and maintain a proper posture, as a matter of fact, most adults tend to walk with their shoulders slumped while staring at the ground.
Improper posture can result in a range of health complications, most commonly causing an increase in low back pain, neck pain, headaches and restricted mobility for many individuals due to the excess curvature of the spine. As a result, body mechanics may also be affected, leading to potential gait and walking complications. Furthermore, in more advanced cases, poor posture can also result in decreased lung capacity and digestion issues.
A proper posture is identified where the body is capable of standing, walking, sitting and laying down in positions while the least amount of strain is being placed on the supporting structures of the spine, especially during movement or weight-bearing activities, such as exercise.
If you’re an individual who struggles to maintain a proper posture, there’s a few simple ways you can slowly correct and maintain a good posture. First, to achieve a proper posture, hold your head high with your chin in. Make sure not to tilt your head forward, backward or sideways. Frequently utilizing a mirror throughout your day can also help remind and ensure your posture is being kept correctly. While checking your posture in the mirror, your earlobes should be in line with the middle of your shoulders. Then, make sure to pull your shoulder blades back, keeping your knees straight but not locked and tuck your stomach in without tilting your pelvis forward of backward. Assure that you’re standing with all toes on the floor with your weight evenly distributed over the heels and balls of the feet to provide the best support for the rest of your body. It’s essential not to allow the ankles to roll inwards or outwards as this can make standing properly difficult. If necessary, support the arches in the feet using special types of footwear.
According to authors Don and Kyle Colbert in Get Fit and Live, the human heads weighs an average of approximately 3.6kg. For every inch that the head moves forward and it is not centered over the shoulders, the weight of the head is increased by 4.5kg. A forward head posture of three inches, for example, increases the weight of the head on the neck by approximately 13.6kg. The added weight can cause great pressure on the muscles surrounding the neck or cervical spine, leading to injury and unwanted symptoms.
“Chronic forward head posture may lead to long-term muscle strain on the neck, degenerative disc disease and disc herniation, arthritis, and pinched nerves,” wrote Don and Kyle Colbert. Essentially while stretching or exercising, pay close attention to your posture in a mirror. Engaging in physical activity and not keeping the appropriate posture for each exercise, often causes the incorrect use of certain muscles where they can then become overly stretched or even cause them to tear. Also, avoid lifting excess weight and keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to prevent your head from pulling forward and straining. If riding a bicycle, be sure the seat is high enough so that your knee is extended on the bottom pedal and your toes are barely touching it.
Incorporating postural exercises into your workouts can be beneficial for those individuals with an improper posture. These specially designed exercises help strengthen the muscles of the back as well as helping provide enough flexibility to the surrounding tissues of the spine in order to ultimately avoid injury and further complications. By improving your exercise form, the individual is allowed to experience greater benefits from each workout.
For many individuals, maintaining a proper posture needs to be a constant reminder throughout their everyday lives. While this is essentially important towards avoiding postural complications and the development of spinal issues, avoiding an improper posture during exercise routines is just as important in order to avoid injury and experience the full benefits of each workout. For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at (915) 850-0900.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez