Too much sitting, bending our necks down to text takes a toll on our alignment. In fact, bad posture is an epidemic these days. Notice how many people have poor posture the next time you’re in a crowd. Any time you assume a position for too long, your body starts to see that alignment as normal. Pretty soon, that hunched over neck posture, due to too much texting, and the protruding tummy from too much sitting becomes your default posture.
The tummy protrusion that some people carry around isn’t always tummy fat. It can be caused by an alignment problem called hyperlordosis. Hyperlordosis also called swayback and anterior pelvic tilt, is a posture where the lower back curves inward too much and the tummy protrudes. One reason people have it is that they sit too much. Normally, your lower back has a slight inward curvature, but with hyperlordosis, this curve is exaggerated. Such extreme curvature places added strain on the back. Over time, it can lead to muscle spasms in the lower back. Also, it’s not aesthetically pleasing as it makes it look like you have abdominal obesity, even if you don’t.
Text neck is another common posture problem. People who bend their neck down to text or use a handheld device are most at risk. Your head weighs around 12 pounds, but when you tilt it straight down to text, the pressure on your spine increases to the point that it places 60 pounds on your cervical spine! Do this all day every day and you’re headed for neck spasms and cervical spine problems. Too much wear and tear on the spine can lead to a disc herniation.
Can Core Exercises Improve Bad Posture?
The best way to take the stress off your upper neck and lower back is to not place your head in a position that puts added strain on your neck for long periods of time. For hyperlordosis, this means sitting less. But, what about exercise? Can core exercises help restore better posture?
Yes, core exercises can improve your posture and help your body get back into alignment. That’s because core exercises strengthen the stabilizing muscles that support your torso. Any time you reinforce the stabilizers by doing exercises like planks you’re helping to restore healthier posture. Weak core muscles reduce support for the spine and this, in turn, leads to poor alignment. While planks and their many variations are an effective way to strengthen the stabilizing muscles and improve your posture, yoga and Pilates help as well.
Also, don’t underestimate the value of being more aware of your posture. Simply being cognizant of how you’re sitting or standing can help you avoid bad alignment. Along with reducing the time you text, take more breaks from sitting and more walking breaks. When you sit, imagine there’s a string pulling you up by the head to remind yourself to hold your body in proper alignment. Doing this consistently will help you break the slumping habit. When you stand, shift your weight towards the balls of your feet, not your heels. Stand straight with your shoulders pulled back and your tummy tucked in.
If you have significant hyperlordosis in the lumbar region, core exercises will help, but you also need to strengthen your glutes. One reason people have hyperlordosis is that there’s a muscle imbalance between the muscles in the front and back of the torso and lower body. Your hip flexors are too tight, often from too much sitting, and the opposing muscles, the back extensors, and glutes are weak. To correct the imbalance, build up strength in your glutes by doing exercises like hip thrusts. Then, do a series of hip flexors stretches daily to lengthen those overly tight hip flexors.
How do you know if you have lumbar hyperlordosis? Try the wall test. Stand with your back against a wall. Your shoulders and heels should be against the wall as well as your buttocks. Now, try to slide your hand into the curve in your lower back. Can you slide your whole hand in? This means you have too much curvature in the lower back and are suffering from hyperlordosis. Normally, you should only be able to slide your fingers in up to the third knuckle on your hand. This means you have some work to do! Now, you know that you need to strengthen your glutes and lengthen those tense, tight hip flexors. You also need to sit less.
Better Posture Means a Healthier You
There are other advantages to fixing bad posture. A study published in the journal Biofeedback found that people tend to have more energy when they have good posture, whereas slouching may be an energy zapper. If you have tight neck muscles due to text neck, you can experience headaches as well. Plus, a 2016 study found that bending the neck down to use devices can even impact respiratory function. You don’t breathe as deeply. So, bad posture can impact your health in a number of ways. You’ll feel better and look better when you have a healthy alignment! In addition, correct alignment keeps the stress you place on your joints and on your muscles in check. This reduces joint wear-and-tear and helps reduce the risk of muscle strains. If you suffer from neck pain or back pain, take a closer look at your posture.
The Bottom Line
Yes, core exercises will improve your posture as they strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your back that help support your spine. The key is to do them and do them consistently. Once standard planks become too easy, do more advanced plank variations to challenge yourself more. But, also focus on strengthening your glutes and stretching your hip flexors to combat the impact of too much sitting. Finally, text less and spend more time talking to people in person1
Biofeedback. Volume 40, Issue 3 (Fall 2012)
J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Jan; 28(1): 186–189.
J Phys Ther Sci. 2014 Feb; 26(2): 319–320.
American Chiropractic Association. “Maintaining Good Posture”
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