Do any of these sound familiar?
“Pull your shoulders back”
“Stand up straight”
Chances are you’ve heard these phrases more than a few times over the years from a well meaning parent, teacher, partner or even from a health professional.
Chances are you’ve even tried doing it for a while but discovered that it’s almost impossible to hold for a more than a few minutes or that you seem to just forget and end up back where you started anyway; maybe you even ended up feeling stiff and sore from trying to change and ended up at a myotherapist anyway.
So… is there such a thing as good or bad posture? And is it important to try and hold yourself in ‘good’ posture?
The short answer for both of the above is No. Let me explain.
Let’s address ‘good’ and ‘bad’ posture first.
It doesn’t exist – There are just too many individual variables to say that there is a ‘right’ way to hold yourself and that there is a ‘wrong’ way. Maybe there’s a more aesthetically pleasing position, but in terms of health so far there is scant evidence linking specific postures to pain or injury.
The image below from The Sports Physio, Adam Meakins sums it up well.
There are definitely better postures or techniques to use to avoid injury when moving heavy loads and for performing certain movements/tasks, but even in these cases there is no one size fits all approach.
So far the best definition (or most relevant) of posture is the following – “Proper posture is such… that the movement is performed with the minimum of work, i.e., with the maximum of efficiency” (Feldenkrais, 1949). I’d go on to say the good a good posture is one that allows you to perform the task at hand whilst being relaxed, comfortable and pain free.
By addressing good and bad posture we’ve also mostly answered the second question – Is it important to have good posture?
Not really. It is important to avoid excessive postural strain though… Think long periods of time in static positions, workstations with screens at odd angles and holding your phone between your cheek and your shoulder etc.
What to do now?
There’s 2 things to remember, and they’re phrases I want you to write down and stick on your desk!
1. Posture is only a problem if you only have one. Sitting in your car driving to work, sitting at your desk all day and then sitting on your couch watching TV for a few hours probably isn’t a great idea. No matter how ergonomically sound your workstation may be, if you sit in it (or stand at it) for 8hrs at a time without moving that’s probably not going to end well. You need variety!
2. The best posture is your next one. This means move; change you position frequently and do it in different ways. In an office environment it can be as simple as moving away from your workstation for 30secs and reaching for the sky or touching your toes. Be creative. Stand up desks can make this easier, but just standing in one position all day isn’t a great idea either. The emphasis here is on movement variety.
Check out our Instagram @themskco for some movement inspiration.