Aging Well

Why Good Posture Is Important for Your Health

We’ve all heard the command “Stand up straight” when we were kids. But even today, it’s worth heeding. That’s because good posture is essential to having good balance. According to the experts from Harvard Medical School, good posture also helps you stay in correct form while exercising, resulting in fewer injuries.

The experts, author of the Harvard Health publication Better Balance, say that good balance can help you across a number of activities, including tennis, golf, running, dancing and skiing. If you’re not an athlete, remember you need good balance even for ordinary activities such as getting up from a chair, carrying packages, and even turning to look behind you.

The strength of your muscles affects your balance in a number of ways, the experts say. The “core muscles” of the back, side, pelvis, and buttocks form a central link between your upper and lower body. Weak core muscles encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance.

But these problems can be addressed by a workout that emphasizes strength-building exercises for the core muscles and stretches to make muscles more flexible. During the workouts, the Harvard experts say, check yourself in the mirror to make sure your posture is good.

According to the Harvard experts, good posture means:

*chin parallel to the floor

*shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)

*neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)

*arms at your sides with elbows straight and even

*abdominal muscles braced

*hips even

*knees even and pointing straight ahead

*body weight distributed evenly on both feet.

When sitting down, the experts say, be sure to keep your chin parallel to the floor; your shoulders, hips, and knees at even heights; and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.

For more on improving your balance, buy Better Balance: Easy exercises to improve stability and prevent falls, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.