Grandma used to nag at me to straighten up my spine
To act respectful and read good books
To take care of what was mine”
Carly Simon may have resented the advice her grandmother gave her in “The Carter Family” (one of my favorite tunes), but her gran was correct on all counts — especially the one about standing up straight.
Good posture improves your mood, your health — even how well your clothes fit. Slouching, by contrast, makes you feel tired and less confident. It’s also the quickest way to add 10 pounds to your silhouette.
Even if you’ve stood ramrod-straight your entire life, as Grandma Simon urged young Carly to do, chances are good you spend more time sitting than standing. And when you sit, you risk slouching; that’s the seated version of bad posture, and we all do it much more than we realize. (What position are you in as you read this, for example?!)
Indeed, if “sitting is the new smoking,” the nation has a three-pack-a-day habit: We drive or take public transportation to work, do our jobs, use computers, chat on the phone, eat meals and watch TV without ever leaving our chairs. If your job ties you to a keyboard, as mine does, your spine may resemble a “C” more than an “I” by the time 5 p.m. rolls around, wreaking havoc on your breathing, your energy levels and the muscles in your shoulders and back.
Regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing, being mindful of your posture can improve your overall health and well-being in at least five ways. So throw those shoulders back if you want to:
1. Boost your confidence. A 2009 study from Ohio State University showed that people who had good posture when sitting in their chairs displayed higher levels of confidence and self-esteem. “Sit up straight!” is especially valuable advice for those on a job interview or first date — two circumstances where it pays to exude confidence and authenticity.
2. Be fearless. Going in for that job interview or out on that first date can make you feel powerless, even fearful. But a study from the American Psychological Association showed that good posture can help you “fake it ’til you make it.” (Click here for more tips on how to keep your confidence from collapsing, no matter what.)
3. Breathe easier. If your job requires you to stay seated for long stretches, take a five-minute breather every hour or so: Stand up, walk around, shake out your hands and stretch your neck and back. When you return to your chair, maintain good posture; this expands the chest cavity, increasing your oxygen intake by more than 30 percent.
4. Stay healthy. Good posture decreases wear and tear on your joints, which might otherwise lead to arthritis. It can also help you avoid the sorts of unnatural positions that can cause disc and other problems of the neck, shoulders and back.
5) Look ab-fab. As the icing on the cake, you’ll look 10 pounds thinner (and quite a bit taller) when you stand up straight — and use your core muscles to keep you there. (One of the best core-strengthening exercises is the plank, demonstrated here.)
Photo: © Klaus Gombert, istockphoto.com