It’s one of the most common observations from well-meaning friends, work colleagues and parents: “your posture is terrible” or “you need to sit up straight“.
This usually leads to the inevitable Google search “how can I fix my posture?“, which in turns brings you here…
But before we cover “fixing” posture, you need to understand what normal posture looks like and the three main reasons why posture can be out.
Normal posture in standing and sitting
If you’d asked what normal posture looked like in 2009, we’d show you this beautiful picture of an upright human being.
But the thing is, it’s rare to see anyone stand or sit like that. And even the people that do aren’t like that all the time!
Posture is a combination of bony structure, muscle fatigue and joint movement.
So your normal posture is different from someone else’s posture. It’s even different for you from morning to evening, based on what you did that day.
So here are the 3 reasons why posture might look different from normal.
1. Bony structure
The body is essentially a bunch of muscle slapped around a rigid bony frame. So the shape of that frame dictates the shape of your body, even with muscles pulling it into different positions.
If your spine has bony changes, it may not be able to straighten completely. So your slumped posture isn’t going to change, no matter how much Mum reminds you to sit up straight.
2. Muscle fatigue
For anyone who needs to sit or stand all day, you know how tiring this can be.
And the brain has figured this out. So the easiest solution is to give different muscles a rest throughout the day.
It means you might stand on one leg, then the other. Or arch your back for a while, then round it the other way.
None of these positions are “perfect posture” but it’s a way of resting muscles in sequence.
3. Joint movement
It’s been said long ago that humans weren’t built for sitting down all day long. Or standing still for hours on end.
Our joints require regular movement to stay healthy and mobile.
So if you need to sit or stand all day, the brain occasionally shifts you around to keep things moving. It’s that restless feeling you get after a while.
But constantly changing position will take you away from being like the perfect posture model. And that’s ok. It’s the way we adjust for prolonged sitting or standing.
So how can I fix my posture?
Remembering that there is no perfect posture, what we need is better habits. Getting stronger alone won’t keep you upright all day long!
Focus on variability
Standing desks became popular in recent years but it turns out that sitting or standing all day isn’t great. You need variability.
A desk that you can sit for a bit then stand for a bit is the best option. It’s a sit/stand desk designed for easy transitions between positions.
Taking a break from the position you’re in every 30min is great. It can be a toilet break, a trip to the printer or just wandering the corridors. Just get up and get moving.
Research tells us you need 1 hour of exercise for every 8 hours of desk time. It can be a long walk home from the station or a gym visit, just make it a routine. Otherwise the effects of prolonged sitting or standing can accumulate from one day to the next.
A balanced exercise session needs to improve your joint health as well as your muscles.
This may be mobility-based training like yoga or repetitive impact loading like running. It keeps your joints healthy and reduces that restless feeling from prolonged immobility.