Fix Your Posture to Strengthen Your Core

Were you ever told to sit or stand up straight as a child? While it may have seemed like annoying nagging back then, it was actually invaluable advice! Your posture affects everything from your mood to your energy level, digestion, cognitive ability, and even (for expecting mommies) oxygen and nutrient delivery to your baby!  It also has a significant influence on your core strength. As moms, it’s always challenging to find ways to fit exercise into our crazy and over-scheduled days. The great news is that improving your posture can make a huge difference, without taking ANY additional time out of your day.  Multi-tasking at it’s best!  Read on to learn more about exactly how your posture impacts your core and simple things you can do to improve your posture and build your strength!

How Your Poor Posture Affects Your Core

  1. It “turns off” your core muscles. Slouching essentially keeps your core muscles in “off mode,” and the longer your muscles spend in this off position, the more your brain “forgets” about them, and the more the brain forgets to use them, the weaker they get….and the cycle continues.  Sitting and standing tall keeps your core muscles “active,” which makes the brain use the muscles more, which makes them stronger, which makes the brain use them more…and the cycle continues (in a much better way)!

  2. It can lead to, or worsen, Diastasis Recti. Slouching puts excessive pressure on the tissue that connects all your abdominal muscle layers together in the front of your body (the linea alba).  If too much pressure is placed on that tissue, it can stretch out so much that it essentially loses its ability to hold your muscles together, and your outer abdominal muscle layer (your rectus abdominis, or “6-pack” muscle) then begin to drift apart, leading to, or worsening, a condition known as Diastasis Recti.

  3. It can lead to pelvic floor issues and core instability. The pelvic floor muscles form the “floor of your core.” In addition to supporting your pelvic organs, aiding in sexual satisfaction, and controlling urination, these muscles also play a huge role in your overall core strength and stability.  When you slouch, this “turns off” your diaphragm — your body’s primary respiratory muscle.  If your diaphragm is shut off, that means other muscles — like those in your neck, upper back, shoulders and chest — have to take over respiratory responsibilities in order to keep you breathing. This can not only cause upper back and neck pain, but it can also lead to a series of muscle imbalances that ends up placing excessive pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, which can then cause issues like prolapse, incontinence (accidental urine leakage), and overall core instability.

  4. It can offset the benefits of other core work you may be doing! Let’s face it.  Even if you did an hour of core work every day (and who does that?!), what you do in the other 15+ waking hours of your day can make a far bigger impact.  Even if you do all the right exercises, if you essentially “shut your muscles off” throughout the remainder of the day, you could offset all that hard work you did!

A Few Easy Adjustments to Improve Your Posture

  1. Sit up tall. This is the single biggest change you can make since most of us (unfortunately) spend so much of our time sitting each day.  When sitting, think of lifting yourself up tall from the back of your neck.  Ensure the bottom of your ribcage is in line with the top of your hip bones (avoid flaring your ribs). Pull your shoulder blades down (away from your ears) and back, and look straight ahead.  For some of you, this may mean you need to adjust the height of your desk or computer!

  2. Set up appropriate back support.  Frequent or long periods of sitting (like being at a desk all day or nursing a newborn), can fatigue your muscles if you try sitting up tall the entire time (and you want to be relaxed when nursing!).  If needed, try to set up your chair with comfortable back support (even using pillows is fine) so that you can rest your muscles, but avoid the damaging position of slouching.

  3. Stand up and move more! The tips above are for when you must sit, but really it is best to avoid sitting as much as possible during your day!  Standing and moving not only helps you avoid the damages of slouching but also keeps your muscles active and can help you burn a lot more calories!  In fact, by incorporating some simple NEAT strategies (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) into your day, you can burn an additional 350 calories or more per day from the simplest activities!  Just be conscious of your standing and moving posture (keeping your pelvis, ribcage, shoulders, and head in line).

A final (important) note

Remember that whatever your current posture is, it is a long-ingrained habit, and habits are never easy to change!  In the beginning, staying in proper posture can feel like a lot of work, and likely you will frequently catch yourself slouching or hunching over (but hey, that’s a good thing. At least you were aware enough to catch yourself!).  Just stick with it, and continue to practice it as much as possible, and eventually, your brain and muscles get the message, and develop a new (MUCH healthier) habit!