We would hazard a guess that there are a fair few of you who worry about bad posture and its effects – both immediately and also in the future, but never end up doing anything about it… Right? With this in mind we caught up with Nikkita Hope Brown, personal trainer and founder of fitness company Free, Hot and Happy to get her top tips on improving our stance! Nikkita is signed up to take part in new urban obstacle race series, Adrenaline Rush. Organised in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, 25% of all entrance fees will go to ensuring that no one faces cancer alone. To get involved visit www.theadrenalinerush.com.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m the founder of Free Hot and Happy, a health and fitness company dedicated to helping women create a body and life they are proud of. Our motto is ‘be strong to be useful’, reminding women that they are so much more than their weight! Our goal is to empower women through mindfulness, fitness and a supportive community. I have actually just signed up to take part in new urban obstacle race series Adrenaline Rush which is organised in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support. 25% of all entrance fees will go to ensuring that no one faces cancer alone. Please join me by visiting www.theadrenalinerush.com!
2. How does good posture affect how people perceive us?
Believe it or not – the better your posture, the more confident you will look. By standing tall, pulling your tummy muscles in and squeezing your shoulders back, you lift up your frame and zip yourself in at the waist, so you will appear long and thin rather than short and wide. Standing in this posture of confidence (even when you don’t feel it), can also affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, making you feel braver too!
3. Why are office jobs bad for your posture?
It all comes down to sitting down! When we stay in the same position day in day out, certain muscles are bound to get tight. This is made worse because we don’t have time to correct tightness. Try standing up and walking around every half an hour and stretch your chest when you’re sitting at your desk by placing your hands behind your head and pushing it out and up. Another posture pitfall is the desk set up. When a desk is too high, we end up shrugging our shoulders to reach the keyboard, while computer screens are often not centered or at eye level, so we’re either twisting awkwardly or poking our head forward to see the screen. It’s not a great look and certainly not conducive to good posture.
4. What are the long term effects of sitting badly?
Our bodies are extremely intelligent and can be programmed like a computer. The trouble with sitting badly is that you’re asking your body to function in an unnatural position. The aches and pains you feel are an indication that something isn’t right, and over time can become chronic. Moreover, sitting badly weakens your core increasing your risk of injury even when partaking in simple every-day activites. Listen to your body and get niggles sorted before they become serious.
5. Why does slouching look so awful?
Consider that the only thing preventing many of your internal organs from ‘hanging out’ is your abdominal and core muscles and when you slouch, your core muscles relax and your belly will protrude outwards, regardless of how much fat is around your middle. Then there’s the dreaded double chin! If you have tight neck muscles (from too much time spent looking down at your phone or computer screen), your chin will drop forward and could make your neck look shorter and more rounded than it really is. Hold your head high!
6. How can we improve our desk setup and thus our posture?
Choose a chair that supports you, and when you sit down, wiggle your bottom to the back of the chair and tuck yourself in until your abdomen is gently touching your desk. With your seat slightly higher than your knees, your feet should reach the ground, and when you place your hands on keyboard to type, make sure there is a right angle at your elbows. Your computer screen should be at eye level and directly in front of you. Last but not least, ensure your phone is within reach without you having to twist to answer it.
7. What about leg-crossing?
Leg-crossing may protect your modesty, but it does little for your posture. When you cross your legs you are not sitting evenly on the chair and one hip is higher than the other. Placing the same leg on top of the other every time will encourage tightness on one side of your back, while lengthening the other side. This imbalance will weaken your core, and increase your susceptibility to back pain and injury. Leg crossing also reduces circulation and increases pressure on blood vessels. This could, over time, result in varicose veins too.
8. How does good posture help in the gym?
Good posture is indicative of a strong core, which is the foundation to everything you do with your body in and out of the gym. Aside from reducing your risk of serious injury, good posture will help you do all exercises more effectively. You’ll be able to lift heavier weights, run faster and simply move your body better.
9. What other ways can we practice good posture?
a) Practice ‘power poses’ - Stand tall in front of a mirror. Hold your head high, push your chest out, pull your tummy in and place your hands on your hips. Stay in the position for a few minutes to feel the benefits of this slimming, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ trick!
b) Streeeeetch - Do these three at your desk ...
Neck: Gently press your index finger onto your chin. Moving only your head, drop your chin down and in toward your chest to stretch the back of your neck. Hold for a count of five and repeat throughout the day.
Chest: Clasp your hands behind your back and push your chest out.
Hip flexors: Adopt a kneeling position in front of something that you can use to hold your foot up (i.e. a chair). Your back knee should be completely flexed, meaning your heel is as close as possible to your butt. Focus on squeezing your glutes and hamstrings, which will push your hips forward. If your right foot is back, you should feel an intense stretch on the right front side of your hip. Hold it for a minute or two, and then switch sides.
c) Pilates is a brilliant long-term solution to creating a beautiful posture because you will be elongating and strengthening all the muscles in your body.
10. What else, if anything can help ‘correct’ our posture?
Regular visits to a massage therapist (or physiotherapist, osteopath etc.) are the best ways to elongate tight muscles, release restricted joints and most importantly learn to take care of your body, improve your well-being and reduce the risk of injury. A good practitioner will give you stretches to alleviate discomfort and exercises to help you make the most of your body.