As the years go by, our muscles compensate for the way we stand, sit, and walk — leaving our joints stressed and damaged — but not beyond repair.
We’re taught to adopt certain postures through different stages of our lives.
As children to sit up straight…
As teenagers to stand confident and relaxed…
As adults to sit and walk as if we’re the most important in the room… and with each day, our body compensates to adjust for these changes in our posture.
But, as we age, our posture compromises our joints and bodily health, wearing them down faster and faster.
Now, although the years have taught you poor posture, there is something you can do.
Once you learn the proper way to stand and sit, you can enjoy a strong, healthy body. You can still correct the imbalances of your previous postures, but first, you must understand the primary mistakes you’ve unknowingly been making all these years.
5 Posture Mistakes That You Need To Correct Now
Posture Mistake #1: Using Your Arms to Get Up From a Chair
It’s time to make a quick exit, bounding out of your chair and off to the next thing… only you don’t bound as much as you force your way to a stand using only your arms. You extend your hips, then knees, and eventually find balance on your feet before moving onward.
But even after a few days of repeatedly pushing yourself to a stand, your upper body joints begin to wear.
See, our arms (especially the shoulders) aren’t meant to take the full force of our bodies at that angle. Too much pressure on the shoulder joint may cause extreme pain.
Instead, try this when it’s time to get up:
- Position your heels as close to the edge of your chair as possible.
- Begin to shift your weight forward, until your weight is over your heels or the center of your foot.
- Think about pushing the floor away with your feet as your hands help to guide your way up.
- Continue to keep a tall posture as you stand.
Posture Mistake #2: Sitting in the “Business Man” Position
We’ve all seen the Mad Men-esque stance, where the ankle crosses over the opposite leg’s knee. The hips shift forward as the shoulders slouch back against the chair. And while a seemingly nonchalant (and overly confident) way of sitting, it has serious repercussions.
There is a group of muscles in your hip that help to turn your leg outward. This “Lateral Rotator Group” works best when long and activated often. However, when you sit in this “Business Man” position for extended periods of time, these muscles shorten and become restricted.
Now, this is not to say you should never put your leg in this position — it can have great benefits from time to time. But you must be conscious of sitting like this often and for a long time.
Instead, opt for a neutral position with both feet on the ground as often as possible. Adapt a tall, comfortable posture while keeping your knees even and in line.
Posture Mistake #3: Standing Crossed-Legged
Waiting in line at the grocery store, or simply when bored of standing we adopt this posture. Crossing one leg in front of the other, locking one joint on top of the next and forcing all of your weight on a single leg.
All of this added pressure on “locked-out” joints degrades the fluid that helps support our body’s functions.
Increased wear and tear on your ankles, knees, and then hips can all be reduced simply by adopting a new standing stance.
A good posture begins with your feet.
- Create a solid base with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward.
- Think about a string tied to your belly button and being pulled through the crown of your head.
- Draw your belly button towards your spine for an even taller posture, while keeping your shoulder blades comfortably down and back.
Posture Mistake #4: Uneven Sitting
Another episode of Jeopardy, another day of unconsciously adopting a poor sitting posture. We sit on our comfy sofas or chairs… then eventually, we notice how uncomfortable we are.
Our hips have become tight, or back stiff, or our knees in pain. Shifting from side to side, we try to find peace. Unfortunately, years of uneven sitting have allowed our bodies to compensate in ways we never thought possible.
Just as sitting with a wallet in your pocket has felt “normal” for many years, your body adapts to the positions we take daily.
Specific muscles shorten (as mentioned in the “Businessman Posture”) or lengthen depending on the daily movements we undergo. But, these muscles rarely do so evenly. These uneven muscles result in a crooked posture or uneven pelvis, leading to low back or hip pain.
During the next episode of your favorite show, sit with intention! Become aware of your posture… What feels normal? Is it uneven? Are certain muscles stretching or pulling you in a different direction? If so, adjust accordingly based on the previous posture positions discussed.
Posture Mistake #5: “Duck Walking” (Outwardly-Pointed Toes)
While there are several reasons some of us walk with “duck feet,” the posture itself is known to cause additional strain on both the knees and low back with every step our feet take pointing out.
Sitting in positions where your toes are pointed out for long periods of time shorten the lateral rotators of your hips. And in response, your body continues this posture as you stand and walk.
Depending on the rotation of the knees and hips along with the outwardly-pointed toes, research has shown this posture can contribute to osteoarthritis — the loss of cartilage (supporting fluid) and bone minerals within a joint.
Stand up and look down. Are your feet pointed out? Do your knees follow them?
Walk intentionally with your toes pointing forward, knees always tracking over the toes. While this may seem awkward at first, especially for your ankles, your joints and low back will thank you in the long run.
The Journey to Supporting Our Joints
Now, that we know the common pitfalls in our posture, we can take the time to adjust and correct the imbalances caused by years of never knowing better.
Common steps like consciously sitting at our desks or dinner tables can reduce the stress we put on our joints, but they take practice. So, be patient with yourself and know that years of these unconscious habits will not go away overnight… but they can be helped with a bit of practice.