The First Thing You Should Do Each Morning? Stretch
You won't believe how good your body feels for the rest of the day.
What poor posture really does to your body.
And how to combat the effects.
So much of our lives these days are spent in front of a screen—you're looking at a screen right now! So it's not surprising that so many of us are often caught hunched over a phone or slouching over a computer monitor. We know it's not good for us. We see ourselves in photos or feel the strain in our necks and know we should be better about standing or sitting up straight. Yet the majority of us never do anything to actually improve it. But you might be surprised to know just how bad slouching is for you—it goes way beyond making you look bad.
While it might feel natural now to slump into a slouching position, it isn't a normal alignment for the body and can cause our muscles (along with our bones) to work harder. Slight creaks in the neck or lower back discomfort can be common effects that are often overlooked, but can result in more permanent pain. When we slouch, our heads come forward, which forces the shoulders to come forward. "This leads to jaw pains and headaches, and to shoulder and back pains," says Chicago-based chiropractic physician Dr. Richard Arrandt. "Additionally, if the mechanics of your spine are not aligning properly, it can affect your rib cage, which can damage your heart and lungs."
Combat the negative effects of slouching by routinely stretching out your chest, shoulders and upper back with a simple doorway stretch. Personal trainer William Richards shows you how to get the most out of the stretch.
Like Dr. Arrandt mentioned above, if we hunch too much, our lung capacity is impacted and inhibited. This means the other tissues in our bodies can't get as much oxygen which can lead to shortness of breath and cloudy thinking. You'll feel fatigued and have less motivation to get things accomplished throughout the day.
To ensure you're sitting with proper posture at work, pull your chair closer to your desk and adjust your computer screen such that the middle of the screen is at eye level.
"We've become a nation of professional sitters," says Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it Straight. "But when you are slouched over, your internal organs have nowhere to go but down and out--you immediately look fatter." The solution, according to Novak, is simple. Get up and move. "When we stand as opposed to sit, we burn 20% more calories and strengthen our muscles, boost metabolism and increase bone density."
If you keep catching yourself slouching, try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you every hour to sit up straighter. This will help you form a healthy habit.
A Harvard University study showed that when people who adopted powerful postures (open shoulders and straight spines) had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels—but people who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. Sitting in a slouching position only makes the problem worse, according to Carol Krucoff, a yoga teacher and founder of Healing Moves. "Shallow chest breathing strains the lungs, which must move faster to ensure adequate oxygen flow, and taxes the heart, which is forced to speed up to provide enough blood for oxygen transport," she says. "The result is a vicious cycle, where stress prompts shallow breathing, which in turn creates more stress." Her solution is to use everyday cues (i.e. a ringing phone or a stoplight) to take relaxed abdominal breaths to combat stress.
Here's how to make sure you're breathing properly to relax your body: Rest your hand below your belly button; you should feel your belly expand as you inhale.
Slouching over causes our intestines to fold up, making it physically difficult for our body to naturally digest and move things along.