Good Posture: Exercise and Work

Posture and Exercise

Posture is a central part of exercise disciplines such as Yoga and the martial arts, but it is often neglected in other forms of exercise such as walking, running or swimming.

Walking is something that most people do in their day-to-day lives. It is a good form of low-impact aerobic exercise, and correct posture can help to maximize its benefits. When walking, weight should be distributed evenly between both legs and feet. The knees should be unlocked, the buttocks tucked in and the abdominal muscles gently pulled in and up. The chest should be raised, the shoulders open and the head held up. The arms should swing from the shoulders.

Good posture during running consists of drawing the body upwards and relaxing the muscles that are not being used (tense shoulders while running, for example, should be avoided). During running, the arms should be slightly away from the body and move in a easy swinging motion. The wrists should be held lower than the elbows, the hands should be relaxed and the fingers loosely curled.

Healthy feet are important for good posture during exercise. Foot problems, such as corns and verrucas, should be treated promptly and training shoes should fit correctly.

People who swim may neglect posture, particularly during breast-stroke. Swimming with the head and neck raised out of the water places great stress on the muscles of the neck and upper back. Instead, the head should be held horizontal with the rest of the upper spine. The upper body should lift out of the water slightly when the legs are brought in to begin a kick. This enables the swimmer to take a breath at the beginning of each stroke. Swimming in this way enhances speed as well as increasing the benefits to the muscles. Whichever stroke people swim in, they should aim to adopt the fundamental rule of good posture – only contract those muscles that are working.

Posture at Work

Postural problems may result from a person’s work environment; he may have a job that requires repetitive movements or standing or sitting for long periods.

People who are required to stand up all day, such as shop workers and warehouse staff, may adopt a bad standing posture .96). This puts a strain on muscles and joints and causes fatigue as the body is held in an unnatural and uncomfortable posture. Workers required to stand in the same position for long periods should take opportunities to move around and to do a few gentle stretches to release tension and to stimulate the circulation.

Some workers may also be required to lift heavy items; this can cause musculo-skeletal problems if good lifting posture is not practised.

Office workers, checkout staff and anyone whose job requires them to sit for most of the working day are particularly prone to postural problems. Using a badly designed desk or workstation for long periods can lead to tension in the neck and shoulders and repetitive strain injury (RSI). RSI is caused by any activity that involves constant repetition of the same movement. It usually affects the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. RSI sufferers experience numbness, tingling, weakness and pain in the affected part. People who use a keyboard, assembly-line workers and musicians are particularly susceptible to this type of problem. Medical attention should be sought.

Postural problems and RSI may be prevented by using a well-designed work-station. People who spend most of their day sitting down can also take simple measures to improve posture. They should try to keep shoulders and arms relaxed and tension-free; when using a keyboard, only as much force as is necessary should be employed (the habit of thumping the keys should be avoided); taking opportunities to stand up and walk around, even if it is simply walking to another part of the office to send a fax, helps to release tension; stretching and flexing exercises loosen up tense arms, hands, shoulders and neck.