Alright, so you’ve got your look together - you’re well-dressed, well-groomed, and ready for some positive attention. Whether it’s in a club, at the office, or on the street, the factor that pulls all that together is your attitude, and nothing says attitude like your physical stance – your posture. Like it or not, people will make assessments based on the way you present yourself. Stand tall and you convey confidence – readiness to face the world and take on whatever comes your way. Slouch and you might come across as insecure, timid or uncomfortable. If this sounds superficial, here’s a more integral angle to consider. Posture can actually change the way you feel about yourself, the way you act; it may even make you more likely to succeed. No matter what, good posture definitely makes you look better. And it’s good for you. Proper posture helps lengthen your spine, making you stand taller. Standing spine-erect with shoulders pulled back not only projects confidence; it cuts a better silhouette in your clothes. Hunched posture suggests a fear of affirming yourself and can make even well-tailored clothes appear ill-fitting.
To self-check the state of your posture, look sideways in a full-length mirror. You want to achieve as straight a line as possible from the crown of your head to your spine. Your ears, shoulders, arms, knees, and feet should all fall into that straight line, without hunching forward, or curving your back and spine. Imagine a string attached to the top of your head and running through your spine, pulling you up. Years of slouching over a computer can cause your shoulders to habitually slope forward, so concentrate on countering the effect by keeping them pulled back, and sitting up straight.
Dr. Mladen Golubic, Medical Director at the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, says one of the greatest enemies of good posture is sitting. Most people sit for too long and in positions that aren’t good for the spine. When you slump, he says, you reduce your capacity to inhale properly, which can lead to feeling tired and sleepy, along with inability to focus and stay alert. It can trigger pain, headaches and muscle strain. Worst case scenario, too much sitting can lead to Sedentary Death Syndrome, which includes coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, even cancer. Dr. Golubic recommends that when sitting for extended periods of time, you get up and move around periodically, or at least stand up and correct your posture every hour. “If you slouch continuously, day after day, and your muscles aren’t strong, the whole skeleton changes," says Golubic. “When you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation…when you sit up straight, psychologically, your attitude is better."
One of the best ways to improve your posture and strengthen your spine is exercise. Exercising regularly, especially your back and abs, strengthens your core, the abdominal and lower back muscles connecting your spine and pelvis, and helps keep your posture upright in proper alignment. Yoga and Pilates are especially beneficial in this regard, and can stretch and lengthen you to your fullest extent. As for walking, stay conscious of your posture, keep your head lifting upwards, and let your arms swing freely. Walk through your day like you’re on a runway. You’ll note the difference in the way you feel about yourself and in the way others regard you.