According to a recent back pain survey, approximately 28 percent of Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain, while another 14 percent say their shoulders often hurt – which amounts to a right pain in the spine.

What is posture and how does bad posture come into play?

Originating with the Latin verb ponere, posture simply means the position in which you hold your body to counteract the force of gravity. And the general consensus is that the straighter your back, the less pain you’ll encounter now, and in the future.

In short, anything that messes with the position of your spine will only cause you trouble. So, if you’re hunched over a tablet for the duration of your commute, or occasionally get your form wrong in the gym, or even simply spend all day at a desk, then you probably have some work to do.

When the body is challenged, say from the actions mentioned above, resulting poor posture can become more and more apparent. And we’re not just talking about a twinge every now and then, or tight shoulders. Poor posture can have long term implications. If an individual is off work with back pain for one month, there’s a 20 percent chance they’ll have a reoccurring issue the following year.

Embrace the Benefits of Good Posture

Improving your posture will help prevent muscle ache and fatigue, as well as increase your sporting prowess. You’ll also protect your spine, and open up the chest to promote a better flow of oxygen around your body. This, in turn, boosts the functionality of everything from your nervous system to key organs. In short, standing a bit straighter could be the solution to many health problems.

When it comes to injury prevention, good posture is like a good spotter at the gym. Standing or sitting for prolonged periods puts your bones and ligaments out of alignment, which means other areas have to work harder to compensate for the imbalance. This is why one of your knees might feel tighter than the other, or hurt when you run, and why you’ve had a knot between your shoulder blades that you can’t get rid of.

The fix? By focusing on good posture, you can improve your oxygen intake by 30 percent, which means there’s more oxygen available in your muscles to power performance, and break up stitch-causing lactic acid deposits.

How To Achieve Good Posture

Start with these helpful tips:

  • Standing. When you’re standing, your rib cage should be in line over your pelvis, as opposed to tipped back, which is how many people stand without thinking about it. Essentially: your pelvis shouldn’t be tipped forward or backward, your neck shouldn’t be pushed forward or over-straightened and the head should be easily balanced on top of the spine. A good way to test this is to stand with your back against a wall. If your posture is good the back of your head should touch the wall, and your shoulder blades will be flat against it. Your abdomen will be tucked in, and your shoulders back and relaxed. Your head, meanwhile, will be looking ahead, with your chin very slightly tilted forward.
  • Sitting. Using ergonomic chairs, getting your computer monitor at the right height and your keyboard in the correct position can all help if your 9-5 involves jockeying a desk all day. Your chair should be as close to your desk as possible so that you’re not having to awkwardly lean forward to actually get any work done. A chair with a tilt of 5-15 degrees will raise your hips above your knees, encouraging the spine to sit supported against the back of the chair.

The benefits of good posture can be psychological, too. Standing or sitting tall helps you remember positive memories, such as the last time your boss actually said ‘Great job’. Practicing good posture is also more likely to make you feel more confident, right down to accepting more positive ideas of yourself and rejecting negative self-images.