Aside from not being very attractive, bad posture can also cause health problems such as injuries and back pain. It seems there are very few fitness activities that focus on maintaining posture. But, Pilates, if done properly, is all about posture and inner strength building.
Margot McKinnon, owner and director of Body Harmonics Pilates talks about Pilates and the importance of posture for a healthier, fitter you.
Q: What is the connection between Pilates and posture?
A: Pilates helps you come closer to a more ideal posture by building the body from the inside out by getting your joints and muscles to work better. When you go the gym, you’re only training outside muscles. Outside muscles only work as well as the inside muscles. Pilates trains both inside and outside muscles. The key to Pilates is to work with your structure and your skeleton to make yourself move in a way that works best for you. Pilates is also very focused on your core muscles. It’s the core that supports the spine and the whole body. If you don’t have a strong core, that’s when you develop postural problems.
Q: How do you know if you have bad posture?
A: A lot of people have the perception that their posture is worse than it is. Usually, the common signs of postural deviation are if your head is forward and you have a rounded upper back. If you look down at your pelvic area, you may see an accentuated arch in your lower back or it’s super flat. Another way to tell is if you’re rolling in or out on your feet.
Q: Why should people care about improving their posture?
A: The better the posture, the better you’ll feel. You’ll live with less pain and stress. The quality of your day to day life will be better. Approximately 90 per cent of issues people go to a physiotherapist for have to do with postural problems. Problems start as early as age six and usually don’t show up until around 36. It’s very important to pay attention early on and not wait until you have pain to improve your posture, which is what most of us do.
Posture will also make you look better, breathe easier and lower your stress. There’s so much to be gained by making the body into the most efficient machine it can be.
Q: What are some side effects of bad posture?
A: Headaches, digestive issues, joint pain, lower back pain, repetitive strain injury, energy loss and stress.
Q: How can Pilates help other physical activities you may be doing, such as running?
A: It sets up all the joints so that you move more efficiently. Better posture allows you to run faster, lengthen your stride and put less strain on your joints.
Q: How does Pilates improve posture?
A: By giving you a stronger core, which supports the hips, knees and ankles. When the core improves, you see people straighten up. Pilates helps the bones to stack up more in line with each other. If you have a rounded back you can fix it by working your core, hips and legs. Basically, Pilates gives you a more solid foundation to work with.
Q: How can people work on their posture throughout the day?
A: It’s important to move around throughout the day. If you start thinking about posture as in chest out, stomach in, back straight or anything that forces your body into an unnatural position you’re likely to make things worse.
Try to move your spine as much as you can by bending forward, backwards and shifting from side to side. Put your arms over your chest, turn left and turn right; arch the back and straighten the back. These actions allow you to use all the core muscles and could help make your spine more vertical.
Q: What are the benefits of good posture?
A: You’ll get more out of the sports you do and you’ll be able to sit at the computer longer pain-free. You’ll have more strength, less tension and move with greater ease. You’ll be more agile, improve balance, circulation and breathing. You’ll sleep better. Furthermore, bad posture compresses organs like the lungs and liver. Good posture also makes you look thinner, and feel more confident and open to the world.
Q: How does posture affect a person’s appearance?
A: Even if someone is overweight and they have good posture, they look better. Or if someone is especially frail, if they have good posture they look stronger. If the body is being carried better, then it’s going to be more powerful so that you move with more grace and coordination.