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Results Coaching Weekly Newsletter 95- Posture Body and Mind

As a Coach at Results I am ever searching for ways to enhance the experience of each member and continue to excite passion for health and fitness. Please enjoy receiving weekly emails on various health, wellness, and fitness performance related topics. May this correspondence continue to serve as an outlet for education and a resource opportunity for all those involved past, present and future.

 

Cheer up, sit up. Sit up, cheer up! This week’s talk is as old as your parents sternly patting you on the back side saying, “sit up right.” Who cares, right!? Turns out there are many reasons for their telling you so. With the roar of the technology age our posture is now more important to consider and protect than ever. The human body, adaptive as it is, evolved over millions of years from dragging knuckles on the ground, to planet dominating upright creatures. We are now seeing the increasing prevalence in the down slumped posture of spine, shoulders, neck and head. We can talk endlessly about chair like postures, technology hunches, and scooter bound seniors that are the very real impending likelihood given the trend of this millennium. Not only does this trend post a physical threat to our body’s independent upright structure and locomotive patterns, turns out there is great evidence relating our posture to moods, and moods to postures.

Hands down, we function best upright. Poor posture is stress on the body in so many interrelated ways, and just as much a stress on the psyche. Most commonly we see the forward head posture (ear forward of the shoulder, rather than directly over) as a result of being stuck at in front of computers and small print for hours and hours on end each day. For every inch of forward shift, the head gains 10 pounds in stress to the upper back and neck muscles. Goodness! No wonder shoulder, neck, and back pain on top of the headaches. Literally! Rounding of the shoulders and uneven/unlevel hips are also very common misalignments of the body responsible for extra stress on the frame and orientation.

We must remember to consider the science in itself of body language. We communicate -both consciously and subconsciously- the mental state and emotional processing through our posture, movements, demeanor and behavior of contracting and relaxing muscles. In this sense there is a fascinating link, or two way street so to speak, of how not only how our emotions control our posture, but how to affect our emotions with our postures. Everyone pretend sad. What do we do? Slouch. Now, play proud. You stand tall, shoulders pull back, head upright and neutral in spine, chest open and outright. Just as our emotions affect how we orient our postures, science digs further to show the inverse relationship of engaging in “happy movements” to sway moods upright.

 

Much of the corrective action is interrelated; stemming from the pelvis and rib cage area, not just the head, neck and shoulders.  It is fair to say we should establish a consciousness of our positioning throughout the day, and so too devote daily time to exercises and “happy movements” to promote the upright and shine bright postures that we function best with.  Sit upright, minimize awkward/asymmetrical sitting, standing, and lying positions.  Of course we all know to stretch more, move regularly, routinely release tension via foam roll, and we all can continue to learn new adaptive patterns according to our body’s natural tendencies and postures.

Pain and discomfort are no accident. Listen to your body letting you know of the extra stress, and by all means this is why your coaches are here to offer up expertise in maximizing the potential of body and mind.

 

The Science Behind Posture and How It Affects Your Brain

By Belle Beth Cooper

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I’ll confess up front: I have terrible posture. It’s been bad since I was in high school at least, and probably for even longer than that. It’s one of those things I keep in the back of my mind as something I know I should do, but never get around to, like eating more vegetables and sending more postcards.

The way we stand, sit, and walk, actually has more longer reaching implications on our mood and happiness than we thought. The latest studies reveal it:

Shaking Your Head Will Affect Your Opinion

Body language is closely related toposture—the way we move our bodies affects how others see us as well as our own moods and habits. In terms of scientific research, the two overlap quite a bit. This isn’t too surprising, but how our posture and body language affect our thoughts is.
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Fix Your Posture with This Animated Guide to Si…

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For instance, a study at Ohio State University in 2003 found that our opinions can be subsconsciously influenced by our physical behavior. Here are two fascinating examples:

  • When participants in the study nodded in agreements or shook their heads to signal disagreement, these actions affected their opinions without them realizing.
  • The same study also showed that when participants hugged themselves, they were sometimes able to reduce their physical pain.
Dutch behavioral scientist Erik Peper has done extensive research into this area, as well. He regularly makes participants in his classes stand up and stretch, for similar reasons why exercise has been linked to happiness, like here:
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Here are three fascinating things that happened once our posture changes:
  1. For example, when we sit up straight, we are more likely to remember positive memories or think of something positive in general, according to this experiment.
  2. Another insight was that if we skip during breaks, we can significantly increase our energy levels. A slow, slumped walk on the other hand, can do the exact opposite and drain us of our energy.
  3. The study also found that those who were most affected by depression before the study found their energy drained more than others.
So Erik Peper is convinced (and I am, too) that we should keep a careful eye on our posture and body language—lest it bring us down without us realizing.

Posture Changes Our Hormones

When we talk more broadly of body language, as opposed to good posture, we can actually see the affects it has on relationships right throughout the animal kingdom. In particular, body language is used to express power, through expansive postures (i.e. spreading out your limbs and opening up your body) and large body size (or the simple perception of large body size).
You might know about Amy Cuddy’s famous Ted Talk and her incredible insights on how posture changes our hormone levels. Well, some even more recent studies took this even further. A study by researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities showed that body language symbolizing power can actually affect our decision-making, subconsciously. The researchers measured the appetite for risk of participants in either expansive, powerful poses, or contricted poses (occupying minimal space, keeping limbs close to the body). Those in the powerful poses not only felt more powerful and in control, but were 45% more likely to take a risky bet.
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Plus, the study used saliva samples to prove that expansive postures actually altered the participants’ hormone levels—decreasing cortisol (C) and increasing testosterone (T):
This neuroendocrine profile of High T and Low C has been consistently linked to such outcomes as disease resistance and leadership abilities.
So clearly, our posture has more to do with our minds we might have thought. And in fact, it seems like our bodies come first—when we alter our posture and body language, it subconsciously influences ourthinking and decision-making.
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So if you want to take advantage of these proven benefits to live a healthier and happier life, where should you start? We know that there is a large amount of different areas that can be painful when we have bad posture. Here’s just a short list of them:

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Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of research into how exactly to adopt good posture—a lot of what we know tends to come from being told to “sit up straight” as children. A study in 1999, however, found that sitting at an angle of 110-130 degrees is optimal for spine comfort, and another in 2007showed that leaning back at 135 degrees is ideal for preventing back strain.7

 

Not only is a position like this difficult to measure and maintain (do you know precisely what angle you’re sitting at right now?), not everyone agrees. The team atLUMOback have created a posture sensor that you can wear around your waist during the day to help you develop better posture. The device watches for slouching and shifting to the side, and vibrates to remind you to sit up straight.
The team, which includes a doctor and a data scientist (as well as a medical advisor), doesn’t advise the leaning-back position for your workday. Instead, they maintain firstly that “the best posture is always the next posture,” or in other words, always keep moving:
We know that many of us have jobs that do require us to spend time working at desks, so knowing how to sit and stand with good posture is certainly important and beneficial to one’s health and well-being. That said, the human body was built to move, not spend 8 hours at a computer.
Here’s an image from the study that promotes leaning back at 135º:
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As the LUMOback team points out, while this is beneficial for your lower back (if you manage to keep it straight), your upper back and neck will suffer if you try to maintain this position while working.
In an office setting, you’re likely to have to crane your neck to see your computer screen and strain your upper back and shoulders to reach a keyboard. Thus, any potential lower back benefits of a reclined position are outweighed by the negative impacts on your upper back and neck.
For now, I’m going to give sitting up straight a go. If nothing else, at least I know it will probably put me in a good mood!
-If you are still seeking the drive, the direction, or in need of an outlet to substantiate your vitality, consult with your next sighted Results coach.  Plan for your path to achievement.  Remain faithful to said purpose with every action, every movement, every choice, and with each decision- stand firm.  Take that found passion and now share this insight and lifestyle to include the lives of those you spend most time with. 
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