“Posture is also a result of self-discipline. With a little strength of will, you can correct your posture before it comes a bad habit, which gradually crystallizes into physical deficiency.” – an amusing description from a book called “Every woman’s book” that was published in Finland in 1945. The book talks about the importance of good posture and how much posture tells about us, and gives tips on how to improve and maintain good posture with exercise. For this blog Malla Helenius, a long-time physiotherapist, was interviewed. Her heart beats when she’s able to improve people’s well-being and quality of life with her work. Her core competence is to see the essential things about posture and movement, as well as the ability to guide gently by observing and listening. This blog focuses on the importance of posture and gives tips on how to help good posture.
Posture as a part of self-concept
There may be talk about posture on a general level. but when talking about an individual’s posture, we shift into a personal and sensitive area. We may more easily bring up poor muscle condition in conversations, or overweight or physical ailments, but not posture. Why? When you look at paintings of important people of the past, you’ll notice that they are almost invariably painted as very good-postured – possibly they in fact were. Good posture signals power and authority. Our attention naturally draws into people who carry themselves with good posture; it signals dignity and self-confidence. Perhaps talking about posture on a personal level is considered more difficult precisely because we think posture describes – not only the physical essence of a person – but more broadly the whole self-concept of the person. Malla knows that examining posture requires sensitivity and knows to deal with her clients in a sensitive and professional manner.
What aspects of well-being does posture affect and why did Malla become interested in the importance of posture?
Malla studied to be a physiotherapist in the 1980s. While observing the clients, she noticed that many had gotten used to being and working in unfavorable positions over the years. Instead of just focusing on treating the client's pain-causing symptoms, Malla started giving tips on how to make changes to one's own posture and working methods. Malla's desire to guide people to help themselves grew and she founded a company called SunErgo. SunErgo’s method is to observe, together with the client, manners and habits that burden the body. Many times, it is not even understood how important things related to posture are in the perspective of overall well-being. Posture affects, for example, breathing, abdominal organ function, digestion and metabolism, ability to concentrate, both blood circulation and lymphatic circulation, and mood.
How to prevent problems caused by poor posture?
It is challenging to understand which all the things affect posture and in what way; what should be done differently, which positions to pay attention to and which muscles to exercise. In Finland, the employer is responsible for many aspects of the employee's well-being, and when challenges arise, the employees are often instructed to see a physiotherapist. Unfortunately, guidance to a physiotherapist is usually done specifically only at the point when the employee already has symptoms that hinder work. It would be significantly more useful (and cheaper!) for both the employee and the employer if the services of physiotherapists were used primarily, and not just to treat the symptoms that have appeared - even then there is usually not enough time to treat the actual cause of the problem. Employees would need to get professional tips on matters related to work positions and the work environment before having any problems. When an employee becomes an expert on their own body and ergonomics, they know how to pay attention to the right things and burden their body in an appropriate manner. Good posture and body usage also improve concentration and stress management. When employees feel well, the workplace atmosphere also enhances, improving motivation, efficiency, and creativity.
Tips to improve good posture:
- Start the day by opening your chest, roll your shoulders back and take a few deep breaths. Repeat during the day whenever you remember.
- Activate the gluteal muscles, for example with squats or step squats, because atrophied gluteal muscles affect the whole body's position.
- Exercise core muscles. Planking is an excellent exercise for deep abdominal muscles. It's best if you do it in front of a mirror at first so you can check the position. Don't be discouraged, even if it feels heavy at first.
- Strengthen the back muscles. You don't have to go to the gym, but using your own body weight, such as lying on your back, lifting the upper body, are excellent exercises.
- Go jogging as often as you are able to and can handle. Good basic fitness is the basis for everything and helps support the body.
- At office use the Gymba® Board which activates the core muscles helping maintain good posture. Read more about the product here.