In this bizarre world of technology where all we do are desk jobs, scrolling through social media, and binge-watching Netflix for extended hours, Seeing someone with an upright and in a correct sitting or standing position is rare! Poor posture does not only cause backache problems and cosmetic deformities, but it can also significantly affect your breathing pattern and general health. Slouch over, take a deep breath, and notice how it changes your breathing.
What is poor posture?
In this modern world, people have a dysfunctional sedentary lifestyle that leads to many visible and invisible changes in our bodies. Text neck is a modern age term that is used to describe a forward head posture our sedentary lifestyle has imposed on us. A poor posture has features such as forward head posture, protruding neck, excessively curved upper back, and rounding of the shoulders resulting in chest and rib cage collapsing. Poor posture has the following effects on overall health:
- Neck, jaw and shoulder pain
- Muscles spasm of the neck
- Intercostal muscles and diaphragm (respiratory muscles) are unable to contract well to create a vacuum to draw air into the lungs.
- Compresses the thoracic region
- Compromised, distorted and shallow breathing
- Joints and ligaments deterioration
- Spinal discs and vertebrae are worn down
Poor posture for extended periods compresses the thoracic region and limits the diaphragm’s ability to contract. As the chest volume decreases, the potential of lungs to expand to their full capacity also reduces. If this behavior is continued over time, the unexpanded parts of the lung convert to dead spaces that no longer participate in breathing and exchange of oxygenation. The result is a progressive loss of lung function over time.
A 2006 study from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed that slumping produced the worst lung capacity and expiratory flow compared to normal sitting and a posture designed to mimic standing spinal alignment (1).
The right posture and how it affects your breathing
Breathing and posture are undeniably interlinked, and both either help or hinder the other. A right posture is necessary for good and beneficial breathing. It reduces the forces applied to muscles, joints, and internal organs to let everything work in less stress. (2)
Right sitting posture:
- Keep your feet flat on the floor with ankles ahead of the knee.
- Back thighs and hips should be fully supported.
- Do not cross your legs
- Relax your shoulders, and make sure they are not rounded.
- Do not sit continuously for hours and take brief walks.
Right standing position:
- Stand straight and erect.
- Neither leaning forward nor leaning backward.
- Head, neck, and torso should be in the correct alignment.
- Let your arms hang down at your sides
- Weight distributed evenly on both feets
Right posture is necessary for breath management, volume, and resonance. It helps and allows our body to breathe in a way it was designed to breathe. When inhaling, the abdominal muscles relax, for the diaphragm and intercostal muscle to contract downwards and push our organs away to create a vacuum, drawing air into the lungs. When exhaling, intercostal muscles and diaphragm relax to allow the abdominals to contract and exhale air out of the lungs. (3)
How to improve posture and breathing?
It is never too late to change a faulty posture as it directly affects our mood, emotions, general health, and breathing pattern
- Look outside of the screen. Health should always come first. Regularly engage in physical activities that promote lung functions, such as morning walks, exercising, taking stairs instead of elevators whenever possible, swimming, and other such activities that make you take your focus off screens.
- Change your posture into a better one. Adopt a correct way of sitting, standing, or sleeping to get the maximum health and mental benefits. Replace sitting desks for standing work tables, get a straighter back couch instead of sloughing cushioned one. Binge shows while sitting than lying most of the time, but most importantly do not forget to get up once or twice between those episodes for a short walk or to stretch those resting muscles.
- Perform breathing techniques. Controlled breathing techniques will help activate the diaphragm, reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Most of these breathing exercises begin with the correction of posture to allow the lungs to expand fully to their maximum potential.
- Focus and consistency. Long years of sedentary lifestyle can not heal with a single day of following a good and healthy posture. It takes time and consistent effort. (4)
As you improve your posture and breathing, your energy level increases, and overall health gets better. Sit a little straighter and breathe a little deeper for healthy breathing and lifestyle.
- Ahmadi A, Maroufi N, Sarrafzadeh J. Evaluation of forward head posture in sitting and standing positions. European spine journal. 2016 Nov 1;25(11):3577-82.
- Jones FP, Hanson JA, Gray FE. Head balance and sitting posture II: the role of the sternomastoid muscle. The Journal of Psychology. 1961 Oct 1;52(2):363-7.
- Lee, L. J., Chang, A. T., Coppieters, M. W., & Hodges, P. W. (2010). Changes in sitting posture induce multiplanar changes in chest wall shape and motion with breathing. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 170(3), 236-245.
- Szczygieł E, Blaut J, Zielonka-Pycka K, Tomaszewski K, Golec J, Czechowska D, Masłoń A, Golec E. The impact of deep muscle training on the quality of posture and breathing. Journal of motor behavior. 2018 Mar 4;50(2):219-27.