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One Small Change

The Perfect Posture Experiment


The idea was simple: Spend one month doing everything possible to perfect my posture. Granted, it wasn’t as sexy a goal as getting washboard abs or bigger biceps, but poor posture is often the overlooked cause of chronic pain, nagging injury, and lackluster performance. Plus, it fits the theme of this blog: One small change that could make a big difference.

So for the last 30 days I’ve been diligently following the Better Posture Workout designed by Sue Falsone, PT, CSCS, director of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance. I’ve also made lots of little changes in my life like raising my car’s rearview and putting a mirror atop my computer monitor to help me to sit taller. And at Falsone’s prompting, I even duct-taped myself into my ideal posture and went about my day, letting the tug of the tape remind me to stand up straight. Through it all, I’ve learned a few lessons about posture and whether the effort to improve is really worth it:

1. Posture is dynamic. For proof, assume what the yogis call “mountain pose.” Stand straight with your feet together and arms at your sides then close your eyes. After a few seconds, you’ll feel your body gently swaying. It’s not an illusion; it’s evidence that you’re continually making subconscious micro-adjustments to maintain balance. Realizing that posture is a dynamic process that you can affect rather than a predetermined, static state-of-affairs was a revelation to me and the first step to committing to change. (There’s even evidence that working to maintain good posture burns calories through a process called “nonexercise activity thermogenesis.” It’s like fidgeting in a way.)

2. You have to exercise in the gym of life. The Better Posture Workout Falsone designed was great. But as she warned beforehand, postural muscles are endurance muscles that need to be exercised more than a few minutes daily. Indeed, continually sitting taller in my desk chair or driver’s seat proved to be a constant battle I have yet to win. Thirty days is only the beginning, not the end.

3. Water can make you taller. I always knew that proper hydration was key to health and performance, but I never suspected it had any connection to better posture. “Dehydration causes fatigue, and fatigue causes poor posture,” says Falsone. “So drinking and eating often to maintain your energy level is important.”

4. Posture affects more than you imagine. As I waded through the vast amount of posture research during my month-long experiment, I was continually entertained and amazed by the myriad ways it apparently impacts our lives. Posture is vital body language that affects how we’re perceived and even think. Here are two of the most fascinating findings:

  • Researchers at Princeton University recently correlated posture with political beliefs, finding that study subjects who leaned to the left while sitting were more likely to agree with Democratic views while those who leaned to the right preferred Republican ideals.
  • Experts at Ohio State University discovered that study participants wrote more confidently when told to sit up straight in front of a computer than those who were allowed to slouch. Evidently, the confidence that good posture imparts comes across in the task being performed.

5. Posture should be a first-line treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic pain or are continually disappointed in your performance even after focused training, have a physical therapist or other expert evaluate your posture. Few athletes think to do it, but it should be foundational. I recently went for a professional bike fitting, something I’d foolishly never had done in 30 years of cycling. The adjustments to my riding posture have made a noticeable performance and comfort difference. Ever think to video yourself while walking or running? The possibilities are endless.

6. Better posture means a new you. Unfortunately, I can’t say that after all this effort I’m even a quarter-inch taller or are fielding compliments about how “different” I look. But, like I said, this is a lifelong pursuit not a “See Results in 30 Days” infomercial. However, when I remind myself to stand or sit taller, I do feel instantly more confident and capable, stronger and younger, even leaner and fitter. Try it. The next time the day is wearing you down, a meeting is droning interminably on, or an attractive person walks by at the gym, straighten your spine, pull back your shoulders, pick up your chin and see if your world doesn’t shift. If a simple smile has the power to brighten people’s lives, then adjusting your posture might be the inner grin you need to win.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Posture, Reduce Pain