“Sit up straight. Shoulders back. Chest up. Good posture.”
How many of us have heard this or something similar before? Though I don’t ever remember being taught good posture or particularly being fussed at over it, I do remember my grandparents being proud of their good posture as they aged.
And it said something about them. That they were hard workers. Strong people. That they didn’t have a lazy bone in their bodies. To them, a stooped posture was equated with being lazy, weak, or old. Something they definitely did not want to be.
Posture took on a bigger meaning to me when I became a physical therapist. It was something we learned to evaluate in order to figure out the origins of pain, weakness, or imbalance. And while we were taught to give exercises to address poor posture, training to carry good posture over into real life tasks was sort of taken for granted. Like once someone is strong enough, good posture will just happen.
This line of thinking really stood out to me as I was watching a continuing education online course a few weeks ago. A P.T. was with patient, an elderly lady, who was working on improving her balance. The P.T. would always start the lady off with an exercise by saying something to the effect of, “Stand up tall, good posture.” The lady would immediately arch her back, push out her chest, pull back her shoulders, and stick out her chin.
Not more than 10 seconds later, the lady would be working on her exercise still but her “good posture” had fallen by the wayside. She was once again hunched over, eyes down, rounded shoulders, chest caved.
Both the P.T. and the lady had an idea of what good posture should be, and that it was important to have it. Unfortunately, exercises done out of good alignment only serve to strengthen the neuromuscular pathway for poor posture.
The lady, bless her heart, didn’t have the strength to maintain the so-called good posture she was desperately trying to hold. Who does?!
The “good posture” she was going for would be difficult for anyone to hold for long, much less learn a new strengthening exercise while holding it.
In both the P.T.’s and the lady’s defense, they were doing what they thought was right. They were trying to strengthen the lady so she could be safer doing the things she liked to do (hiking). This involved a lot of balance and core muscle strengthening. Good things with some good benefits.
This begs the question, just how important is posture?
speaks spoke volumes
A hundred years ago, posture was important. In a book called Education, copyright 1903, author Ellen White penned,
“Among the first things to be aimed at should be a correct position, both in sitting and in standing. God made man upright and He desires him to possess not only the physical but the mental and moral benefit, the grace and dignity and self-possession, the courage and self-reliance, which an erect bearing so greatly tends to promote.“
At that time posture was not just sort of important or something to think about once in awhile. Rather it was considered foundational to a proper education. One of the very first things to learn in proper maintenance of our bodies’ health. It was considered to be crucial in order for learning to take place.
What happened to the importance of posture?
If posture was a foundational piece of childrens’ education back in the early 1900’s, what has changed?
For one, life has become less active and more sedentary in general, with machines doing our work and computers doing our thinking for us.
Perhaps the importance of posture has also been minimized as athleticism has been glorified.
But athletic performance does not equal health.
Of course being somewhat active is somewhat better than being sedentary. But realistically speaking, if we are living mostly sedentary lives with a little bit of exercise sprinkled in here and there, it is not going to be nearly as beneficial as living a life of balance between between physical and mental activity.
How we use our bodies the majority of the time has more to do with health than what we do with them every so often. In other words, the posture you have for eight hours each day is going to have more bearing on your health than the exercise you may do for one hour each day.
So while exercising one hour each day, six days per week can be good, that only equals 360 minutes out of 10,080. Which is only about 3.6% of all time spent during the week.
But your posture, the position your body is in at any given moment, is something you are inherently “doing” 100% of the time. Which affects your health 100% of the time.
Is good posture simple?
Perhaps posture isn’t emphasized anymore because it is thought of as too simplistic worth mentioning let alone bother with. But scientifically speaking, there are specific biomechanical guidelines as to what structural position is optimal for health. The posture in which God created the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to be in their most balanced position. Which affects the organs, tissues, bloods vessels, lymphatics, and cells.
It’s not just a way to look good, fit, or hardworking, but a physiologic necessity for our bodies to be able to function the way they were designed.
Being in the “correct position” means being upright, symmetrical, having a good foundation, and walking in straight paths, with everything in perfect balance. Physically and spiritually.
Yet how many people know the guidelines for optimal biomechanical alignment, or “correct position,” let alone follow them?
What does good posture mean to you?
Stand up tall in your best posture. Take a look at your chest and shoulders in the mirror.
Do you look like this?
(Chest down, shoulder blades squeezed back)
Or do you look like this?
(Chest down, shoulders in external rotation)
All three could be described as a way to pull the shoulders back. But only one way can be done without compromising the body’s alignment (chest down, shoulders in external rotation). And that is the way in which the muscles in the body are most balanced.
We live in a world that glorifies human performance and minimizes God’s laws of health. The great news is, God longs to and will restore us to His image. In perfect alignment with His plan.
Because we were originally made in the image of God, our Designer, perfect postural alignment is written in our DNA.
And as we reflect the Creator, the way we sit, stand, and move 100% of the time, is as important now as it has ever been.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them … And God saw every thing he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:27, 31