What’s the secret to good posture? It’s all in the way you hold yourself. Good posture can help us feel slimmer, more confident, and, according to a recent study, could now even be a way to treat depression.
A study undertaken by Dr Elizabeth Broadbent for the University of Auckland has found that sitting down, all hunched over and slumped, could leave you feeling down and miserable, while sitting up straight could help you to feel less scared, more enthusiastic, and more persistent. Dr Broadbent tried out her theory on 61 participants, and you can’t argue with the results. Half of the group were told to sit naturally, while the other half were told to sit up straight. They then had to deliver a five minute speech, during which they were told to fill in a questionnaire about their mood at that exact moment.
And those who had been instructed to sit up straight undoubtedly found that they had more energy, were more enthusiastic, and even felt they spoke more articulately than normal.
Convinced? Try these easy tricks to great posture, and feel yourself become instantly taller, slimmer and confident!
One of the most important muscles when it comes to perfect posture is called the transverse abominus. This is a large fibrous band that wraps around our middle and is often referred to as our “core”. This acts like a corset and the stronger it is, the better posture you have (plus the flatter your abs are). A great way to strengthen this muscle is using a piece of string.
Stand tall and with good posture, then pull in your tummy muscles really tight. Now tie a piece of string around your waist, keeping that tummy pulled in; as soon as you relax your tummy muscles the string will feel tight so it prompts you to pull back in. This is a good drill to do every day and you only need spend a couple of minutes doing this, so it is great to do if you are chopping or cooking in the kitchen as you can be toning your abs at the same time.
Re-engage your posture first thing in the morning to quickly readjust your muscles and pull everything back into place:
Stand with your feet hip width apart and arms by your sides. Imagine you have a piece of string from the top of your head pulling you up to the ceiling, so you lift your entire body, making it as tall as possible but still keeping your feet firmly placed on the floor. Keep your tummy muscles pulled in tight and take a deep breath in; as you inhale, raise both your arms directly above your head and gently clasp your hands, then very slightly bend your upper body to the right, hold for a couple of seconds then return to the other side, whilst taking deep breaths in and out. Be sure to not lean forwards or backwards as you do this. Repeat these alternating side stretches 10 times every morning.
Every time you sling your handbag over your shoulder, you could be sabotaging your posture; the heavier your bag is, the more weight you’re applying to one side of your body. If you must carry a heavy load, then a backpack is the optimum choice, or decant into two bags and carry one either side of your body.
Make sure you stand up from your desk or seat every 20 minutes even if it is just to get a glass of water, stretch or walk around – this will help you limber up and prevent slouching. When we sit for long periods we apply more compression to our spine and our shoulders can become rounded. Try setting a reminder on your phone.
Release your hip flexors
One of the main reasons for poor posture, or an inability to hold good posture, is tight hip flexors – these are tiny ligaments situated on the front of the hips. When we sit for long periods these can become shortened and pull on the pelvis, affecting our posture. Doing pelvic tilts every day is a great way to prevent this.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with your arms by your sides and palms facing down.
Keep your spine in neutral, i.e. in line with your hips and shoulders and not arched.
Take a big breath in through your nose and then gently exhale through your mouth as you pull your navel towards your spine, tilting your pelvis so your pubic bone lifts. Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down. Repeat 10 times.
‘Sitting up straight wakes up your brain stem, giving you an awakening feeling all over,’ says nutritionist Charlotte Watts, author of The De-Stress Effect.
The easiest way to practice holding the correct posture when sitting is to practices the poses set out in the Feldenkrais method. Developed in the 1930s, its gentle techniques aim to help correct poor posture habits which can cause stress and tension.
‘It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in or how old you are – anyone can do it,’ says Jeff Bell of Spectrum Wellness in New York. ‘Each move is performed slowly without pulling or pushing – it’s one of the safest forms of stretching,’ he explains.
Run through these easy steps each time you sit down at home.
1) Sit upright in a chair (without leaning on the backrest) and face straight ahead.
2) Slouch by slowly rounding your back, tilting your pelvis towards your bottom.
3) Straighten, then slowly tilt your pelvis forward towards your legs, as if trying to improve your posture.
4) Tilt your pelvis back and repeat, slouching and straightening several times, noticing the difference in how your body feels.
Try yoga and pilates
Experts reckon Iyengar yoga can help lower blood pressure, ease back pain and reduce stress, as well as correcting alignment.
Pilates aims to strengthen core muscles for a longer, leaner and more toned body. It’s ideal for those who want a longer shape or stronger back as it strengthen the mid-section muscles.
Try this gentle move to get you started at home.
1) Lie on your back with your knees drawn into your chest.
2) Slowly roll your head, neck and shoulders off the floor.
3) Extend your legs off the floor at a 45 degree angle, whilst raising your arms overhead.
4) Slowly sweep your arms out to the sides, then bend your knees and grasp your ankles. Repeat the entire sequence five times.