Stand up tall!

Sit up straight!

Stop slouching!

Have you ever stopped to think why children and teenagers around the world have been hearing these commands since what seems like the beginning of time?

It’s most likely because it took our prehistoric ancestors millions of years to stand up straight and now that we finally have…we’re ruining it! Our sedentary societies, technological advances, fixed machine-based strength training, and the sad state of our body-minds are reversing our progress.

I hate to say it, but the latest science now proves that our nagging mothers and teachers were right…there is an undeniable power in your posture that impacts your physical, mental, and emotional health!

Posture Problems

The posture of today’s professional is pathetic! The average individual is sitting for 13.5 hours per day and the majority of these hours are spent hunched over a keyboard, tablet, steering wheel, plate, and remote control. Also the average professional spends 2-4 hours on their smartphone every day! Our bodies and posture were designed and evolved to move specifically through the six primal movement patterns of pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, twisting, and bending. The primal movement patterns of our millennium are fork to face, glass to mouth, fingers to keys, thumbs to screen, and jaw open and close.

Becoming One with Your Chair

The human body has an amazing ability to adapt to stimulus and stress applied to it – posture is no different. When the human body is exposed to a stimulus or stress regularly enough it will adapt for efficiency and ease. Your body will adapt to sitting for long periods of time by changing your muscles and spine so that you most resemble the position you take in your chair. You can get more of the details of this transformation and how to correct it in my Uber Driver Body-Balancing Plan article.

Posture adaptations are not limited to just sitting. I have many tall clients that share their struggles with posture from constantly looking down to speak to us more vertically challenged individuals and the uncomfortable reality they face with one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all office workstations.

Posture changes can happen from so many other life factors such as nine months of pregnancy, repetitive movements (i.e. sports and daily activities), sleeping position, negative thinking, emotional guarding, large breast tissue, breast implants, carrying a bag dominantly on one arm or over one shoulder, high heels, improper breathing patterns, and even inflammation of the gut (stress, foods, drinks, artificial ingredients, and medical drugs) that deactivates the core muscles causing your hips to weaken knees to drop inward and feet to flatten.

I can’t wait any longer to share 5 not-so-secret powers your posture plays on your physical, mental, and emotional health:

1. Pain

As posture changes so does muscle lengths and strengths as well as spinal curves and joint positions. In combination, all of these postural distortions exacerbate muscle imbalances, reduce joint range of motion, produce faulty movement patterns, and deliver excessive sheer force on the spine ultimately leading to aches, pains, injuries, and surgeries anywhere from head to toe. Have you ever experience daily pain? Pain sucks up human resources like the use of vitamin C (70% greater utilization) and drains physical, emotional, and mental reserves out of the person experiencing it. The skeleton is similar to any structure, when there is a faulty foundation it is much more likely it will collapse. Restoring posture and ideal body alignment through corrective ergonomics and exercise will simultaneously increase energy flow and reduce pain.

2. Energy

Put your body into an exaggerated slumped posture and take a deep breath. Now re-position yourself with soldier-like perfect posture and take another deep breath. Was there a difference? There should be! A crooked body is like a bent antenna or garden hose, where the information (nerves) and energy (blood and oxygen) flow will be disrupted and experience resistance. As an example, it’s estimated that poor posture (above slumped example) reduces lung capacity by 30%! That means you have 1/3 less oxygen uptake that your body can use for energy conversion and metabolism. Poor posture is stressful on the body and mind because when we are out of alignment our structure can no longer evenly distribute the stress of living evenly and our energy flow is compromised leading to fatigue. Also maintaining optimal posture takes muscular endurance, willpower, and mindfulness that all ask today’s fatigued professional to exert even more energy. Poor posture is a reflection of one’s vitality and energy as we slouch when exhausted.

3. Hormones

Our physical posture is intimately connected to our mental and emotional state due to the direct, swift, and predictable impact it has on our hormonal levels. Amy Cuddy’s outstanding TED Talk ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ shares that blood panels performed on individuals that hold closed-down (poor) seated and standing postures compared to open, upright (power) postures for two minutes found significant differences in cortisol and testosterone levels. Holding poor postures/poses increased cortisol (breaking-down stress hormone) and decreased testosterone (building-up hormone) versus power postures/poses that inversed low testosterone and high cortisol in two minutes!

(Top Row - High Power, Bottom Row - Low Power)

4. Confidence

Picture the body position of someone who is confident. I guarantee you are envisioning them standing with their chest up, shoulders back, and head held high. Now picture someone who was lacking confidence and how differently they are positioned. Most likely their body language was in a protective, defensive, and make-myself-small-as-possible state with arms crossed, collapsed chest, and downward head. Posture has both an internal and external psychological impact on our confidence. Externally when we are presenting a proud posture we are perceived that way by the outside observer and unconsciously treated that way. Internally exaggerating a perfect posture also changes our self-esteem. We can use the power of posture to bring ourselves to the mental and emotional state we desire by adopting the matching/corresponding body language. This is scientifically supported by a 2009 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology conducted by Richard Petty.

5. Mood

When you hear emotional descriptors like ‘depressed’, ‘overwhelmed’, ‘life is weighing on me’, and ‘heart-broken’ what body position do you envision? Certainly not super-hero like! You picture a cartoon character sulking with a rain cloud following them around. On the other hand, it is impossible to not smile or to stay in a sour mood when you are skipping. Even without saying anything, posture wears our emotions on our sleeve for everyone to see. There are two interesting posture terms one called ‘Green Light’ posture that tells us an individual is open for engagement and ‘Red Light’ posture which innately communicates to outsiders they are closed for business metaphorically! Pay attention to what light you are shining out to the world and how your emotions can dictate the signals you are sending to everyone around you. Here is another fascinating piece from Amy Cuddy in a 2015 New York Times article that states posture causes greater negative bias, fear, and less assertiveness. Also the smaller the electronic device we use (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) the more collapsed our body posture becomes.

Mindful Posture 21-Day Challenge

After reading my 5 not-so-secret powers of your posture, I know you are going to be hyperaware of how you are sitting and standing. Let’s harness your inspiration by practicing mindfulness around your posture for the next 21 days to form a habit. For the next 21 consecutive days every time you catch yourself in a less than optimal posture…bring your chin parallel to the ground, roll your shoulders back/down and slightly lift your chest. Also take note of how your confidence, energy, and mood are influencing your posture in a positive or negative way.

I am excited for you to experience the power of your posture for yourself and I am confident that it will bring you interesting insight that can help you improve your body, life, and work from moment to moment!

Author's Bio: 

Lance Breger is an Executive Wellness Coach and the Founder of Infinity Wellness Partners, a comprehensive corporate wellness company that prepares executives and organizations for the most productive and healthy work-life. Lance has led online/on-site training programs for over one thousand professionals through his company’s four pillars of wellness: fitness, nutrition, mind/body and ergonomics.

Lance is also a Master Instructor for the American Council on Exercise and the recipient of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Program Director of the Year award. Contact Lance for coaching, consulting and speaking at: