“Stand tall, stand proud, stand strong.” These are the words of my Nana. At the time I had no idea what she was going on about. However, over the years as I have become quite involved with people, how they exercise, how they sit at desks, how they walk around, or stand at a coffee machine, then I understood. I would often slump up against a wall whilst I chatted, or walked along reading my phone; there are heaps of imagery I can give here. My spine was no longer holding me up and I was starting to look older for the stooping and it didn’t look attractive. The muffin top just spilled over the waistband! It also hurt, I realise in hindsight.
The way you hold yourself can affect your life in a lot of ways. It can change the way people see you, it can permanently alter the alignment of your spine (ouch), and maybe most importantly, it can cause you a lot of pain and problems. Anyone who’s heard me talk about Nordic Walking for more than 5 minutes will know my mantra off by heart, so let’s say it all together now:
Perfect Posture Prevents Pain
That’s right – if you suffer from neck, back, hip or leg pain, posture could part be the problem. Our posture says a lot about us, and it has a huge effect on how we feel, both mentally and physically. So before you run off to the doctor or reach for the painkillers, why not try to improve your posture and see just how much difference it makes?
Problems Bad Posture Can Cause
Bad habits are hard to break, which is why so many people still have bad posture, despite countless complaints from their mother in their youth. But what you didn’t know is that by sitting slouched in your office chair, standing leant on one leg or cradling your phone between your ear and your shoulder, you are causing yourself a lot of problems. Just a few include:
- Slouching your shoulders and upper back affects your confidence and capabilities. In fact, some very clever people figured out that just by changing your posture to something more confident, you can become more confident. That’s because our posture directly affects testosterone and cortisol levels in our brain, altering our mood to fit out posture. So next time you need to feel confident, stand confidently and you will soon feel it as well!
- Obesity is one of the highest causes of bad posture. That’s because the human body is very clever, and it will try to prevent injury to itself by evenly spreading out the weight across your body. But this forces the spine out of alignment, which can cause all sorts of nasty problems and pain.
- Bad posture can raise blood pressure. That’s because there’s a direct neural link between the neck muscles and the bit of your brain that controls blood pressure. Bet you didn’t know that eh? So when you crane or slouch your neck, you are putting tension on that link and making your blood pressure to rise.
- Contrary to what your mother told you, scoliosis (a condition where the spine is curved unnaturally) cannot be caused by bad posture. It is a spinal deformity that is usually there from birth, and while the symptoms can be managed by posture work, it’s not caused by bad posture.
So What Is Good Posture?
Posture never used to be something we had to learn. When we first came down from the trees, we walked with perfect posture. But now, our desk-ridden days have left us with hunched shoulders, Donald Duck bum and ‘texters neck’. To reverse this de-evolution effect, we need to learn how to sit, stand, lie and walk all over again. It takes time and dedication to do, but it will make such a difference you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. As a starting point, stand up. Drop your shoulders down and hold your head up straight – but not too far, we don’t want any sticking out chins! Breathe deeply and engage your core. This will help correct lots of little bits of your posture that you didn’t even know existed! Make sure both feet are supported and your knees are straight, and you have the basics of good posture! Now try to keep that up all day, every day…
What Does Posture Have To Do With Nordic Walking?
When I say ‘posture’, it turns out loads of people are thinking about the way they sit or stand. It also results in a lot of people shifting their shoulders back and standing up straighter! But your posture is never more important than when you are walking and moving about. Those videos of the girls walking around with heavy books balanced on their heads weren’t doing it for fun – they were learning how to walk with the correct posture. Nowadays we’ve gone off books, so we’ve turned to sticks instead! Nordic Walking is a fantastic way to improve your posture and learn how to walk (and even run) without all the stumbling, falling over bits in the middle. Because we use poles to support and propel ourselves, we can focus on how we hold our arms, how we place our feet and what our shoulders are doing. You learn to control arm swing, get the hips moving properly and keep the shoulder blades back and down, lengthening the neck and preventing pain.
Are you ready to improve your posture and kiss that pain goodbye? Then hop on the cheeky train and get Nordic Walking! Take a look at the courses I’m running for all abilities and get yourself booked in, and while you’re at it, hop on over to my Facebook page and see all my happy Nordic Walking gang. And if in doubt, always remember the 4 P’s – Perfect Posture Prevents Pain!