My wife caught me slumping the other day and told me to watch my posture. I’ve always been very aware of my posture. I have always made a conscious effort to maintain good posture. I’ve written and spoken about the importance of good posture for years. I used to get positive comments about my posture. Perhaps a stint in the Marine Corps helped.
This is a three minute read but is worth it if you are getting older.
Anyhow, I was noticing my posture in the mirror one morning recently, and discovered that I seemed to be bending slightly forward with my shoulders rounded and my head forward, signs of a deteriorating posture. I made a note in my notebook to watch my posture and to make a deliberate effort to stand up straighter. I didn’t think that it had actually become noticeable to anyone else, but just two days after I had made that note to myself, my wife approached be with a strict admonition about my posture and how it was starting to decline. That makes it a more serious problem. (And no, she doesn’t peek at my notebook).
Why is my posture beginning to decline? First, I spend a lot of time at the computer — a couple of hours every day. That automatically invites the head forward, slumped over posture that my wife and I were seeing.
Second, I do a lot of exercises for my abdominal muscles and not enough exercises for my back. If you are not conscious of it, that can result in a “pulling” forward and down of your entire upper body. If you do a lot of pushups or other exercises for your chest, that can add to the pulling forward of the shoulders. Unless you do offsetting exercises that will strengthen the “pulling” muscles of your back, the slumping will get worse. It’s a function of balancing the exercises.
Ironically, part of the solution is consciously tightening your abdominal muscles as you are standing or sitting — not a forced tightening, just a conscious tensing.
So what am I doing to correct my posture before it gets worse? First, I posted an index card on the lamp directly in front of my computer where I wrote in large letters: “Posture”. The reason? Simply to remind me and make me mentally and physically aware of my posture as I am writing or otherwise using the computer.
Second, I started doing exercises for my upper and lower back to offset the emphasis I had been focusing on with exercises for my abdominals and chest. Most involve “scapular retraction” (pulling back my shoulder blades and upper back) and exercises where I am on my stomach while lifting shoulders and legs off the floor. In the fitness arena, the latter exercise is called a “Superman”.
Finally, I am making sure I am mindful of when I lapse into poor posture by being extraordinary conscious of how I am sitting, standing, or moving at any given time. I am “visualizing” myself enjoying good posture — not only mentally, but physically. In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, author Maxwell Maltz said to picture your end result clearly and vividly and then capture the feeling of the successful result. He said:
“Then your internal machinery is geared for success to guide you in making the correct muscular motions and adjustments . . . to make the goal an accomplished fact.”
A little off the wall for you? Hey, visualization worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger, why not me? (NOTE: Arnold turned 70 two days ago on July 30th.)
In the meantime, while I am making the conscious effort to regain excellent posture, my wife will be reminding me by punching me touching me gently in the middle of my back whenever she catches me letting poor posture get ahead of me.
Being fully aware of the problem is the first step in resolving it. I’m glad I caught it early and that my wife reinforced it. My recommendation to you? Be aware and make a conscious effort to stand up straight. Your posture is one of the first things people see and use to make judgments about you. It is a vital factor in your health, energy level, and for your physical and emotional well-being.
The takeaway? Keep an eye on your own posture. It doesn’t take long for it to deteriorate and it may not be noticeable at first. Don’t be in denial. It’s never too late to recover, but it’s best to catch it early and do something about it right away.
Thank you for reading.