In old black and white films, you may have seen examples of posture training, which often involved walking around slowly with a book balanced on your head.
Mums often say to their young children, ‘Stand up properly!’ or ‘Don’t stoop’. Commonly associated with decorum, elegance and impeccable manners, good posture is perhaps deemed less important nowadays; however, in an age where many of us lean over computer desks for hours at a time to stare at our computer screens, or when our necks are bent as we mindlessly scroll through social media, we should perhaps emphasise its importance once again.
Standing ‘properly’ doesn’t just make you look taller and slimmer, it also has health benefits. When your posture is good, your spine is aligned, and you distribute your weight equally across your body. When you stand straighter, your organs have more room to work effectively. In turn, if your muscles and tendons aren’t compressed, your nervous system flourishes, as it’s under less pressure—maybe that’s why we often feel more confident and relaxed when we stand straighter. If you’re someone who slumps or hunches over a lot, your digestion could become sluggish, and your breath may feel shorter than that of others, as your lungs and diaphragm do not have the space to fully expand.
Over time, with such as weak ankles and/or poor posture, you may lean to one side or forward ever so slightly, which can affect your gait and how you walk. Take a look at the underside of a pair of old shoes or trainers…is one area more worn than the rest? This is a sign that your posture is out of kilter. This can lead to problems later in life; for instance, if you list or lean, you’ll continually put more weight on that side of your body than the other. Your knee and hip on this side will wear faster than the other as a result, which could lead to you needing a replacement joint if this exacerbated wear and tear grinds down the bone. Poor posture can also affect your circulation and the blood flow through your body, which could result in swollen feet.
Your shoes can affect your posture. For example, if you’re someone who wears high heels often, your body has to compensate for your feet being forced forward (otherwise, you’d fall flat on your face). Heel wearers find their centre of balance is much further back than what’s natural, and repeated heel-wearing can cause the spine, hips and knees to be in unnatural positions for long periods of time.
If you feel you suffer from poor posture, there are things you can do. First and foremost, take greater care of your feet. To achieve better balance and to distribute your weight healthily, consider wearing orthotics. These are special supports that you insert into your shoes that provide extra support and cushioning where needed. Orthotics can relieve pressure on certain areas of your feet and reduce any associated pain. They can prop up fallen or painful arches.
Orthotics are different to typical insoles or inserts, which are predominantly designed to cushion and absorb. They offer more permanent, corrective solutions that help improve posture and realign the bones of the body.
If you’re carrying extra weight, improving your posture could be well within your control if you drop the additional pounds. More weight equals more pressure on your bones, muscles and tendons, and it will eventually feel more natural to stoop than straighten. It’s much more difficult to reverse poor posture than addressing it before it begins. So, remember, maintain a healthy weight and consciously keep your shoulders back, raise your chest and lift your head.
If you’re someone who works at a computer, your posture may be impacted by the hours spent hunched over your desk. Consider investing in a standing desk to eradicate this; at the very least, look at getting an ergonomic chair and ensure your computer screen is at eye level.
With regards to your feet, stretching and exercising them can help you obtain and retain better posture. Very few of us appreciate just how much of a foundation our feet provide until we have a problem with them, yet many of the issues our clients suffer from could be avoided with greater care. Better posture will not just benefit your feet but all areas of your body.