Perfect your Posture
In the era of national lockdowns and make-shift kitchen-table-desks, it’s never been more important to perfect your posture. We’re seeing so many clients every week who are experiencing aches and pains which are largely down to poor posture and lack of movement, and we want to share with you some of the common thinking about why prolonged periods of sitting are affecting our posture.
So what is good posture?
Our bodies are beautifully designed to work with the force of gravity. When our body is in correct alignment, (think of a vertical line which runs through the ears, shoulders, pelvis, knees and ankles) gravity is distributed equally, and less stress is placed upon the spine. Inactive lifestyles and sedentary working patterns are negatively affecting this alignment, by changing the relationships between the muscles of the front and back of the body.
If we think about the way the majority of us are currently working - we wake up and sit down to work. We then transfer ourselves to the kitchen and sit down to eat our meals for the day. Then, in the evening, we'll sit on the sofa to unwind before strting the whole process all over again the next day - the joys of lockdown life! Without the usual activity associated with meeting friends, walking to grab something for lunch, commuting and everything else we’re used to - it’s no wonder so many of us are carrying aches and pains we’re not used to.
When we sit (and let’s face it most of us slump), certain muscles relax while others are working overtime to compensate. This slouched and seated position over time creates a whole host of postural problems.
Issue #1 Tight chest, weak back
Good posture is essential because it ensures that our muscles and tendons are working in the way that they are designed to. Muscles are designed to work in pairs, so when one muscle contracts (and therefore shortens) the other relaxes, and lengthens. One of the most common and detrimental side effects of prolonged periods of sitting is something called upper-crossed syndrome, which is essentially a tight Chest and weak upper Back muscles. When we sit (particularly in a slouched position), our chest and shoulder muscles become tight as they are kept in a shortened state of contraction. In contrast to this our upper back muscles ‘switch off’ and lengthen, gradually becoming weak. As a consequence, the position of our shoulders and head change - often leading to upper back, shoulder and neck pain.
Issue #2 Tight hip flexors, weak glutes
Prolonged periods of sitting also causes an imbalance in the muscles of our lower body, however in this case it is our hip flexors that tend to become short and tight, as our Glute muscles weaken and subsequently fall asleep - this is called lower-crossed syndrome. This becomes particularly problematic as it results in ‘glute amnesia’ or ‘sleepy butt syndrome’ - creating the perfect habitat for an injury to occur.
Why? Because when a muscle becomes too relaxed and weak, it is unable to fulfil its job role properly. In this example, the Glute muscles are designed to be powerful, and responsible for every day movements like walking. Weak muscles mean that when we need to spring into action and use our Glutes (running for the bus, for example) they aren’t up to the job. As a consequence, and to ensure we are able to carry out this movement, the body calls upon neighbouring muscles (the Hamstrings) to help out.
Here lies the problem. As time goes on, the hamstrings will become stronger and begin to override the Glutes. The hip flexors then become tighter and tighter - and this creates the perfect recipe for an injury.
These negative habits work against the natural design of our body, ultimately causing our muscles to become imbalanced and knocking our posture out of alignment.
So, What can we do about it?
Strengthen and Lengthen the correct muscles
For a lot of people who sit at a desk and lead a sedentary lifestyle, the aim should be to strengthen the Glutes and back, and lengthen the chest, shoulders and hip flexors.
Head to our instagram page for a full video of our favourite exercises to wake up those sleepy Glutes and to fire those back muscles into action!
Strengthen your Glutes:
Strengthen your Back: