Ever since we were children, we’ve all been told to sit up straight, and yet many of us choose to ignore this advice. We know that it’s good for our backs, but sometimes it’s just easier to slouch or slump, and our backs feel just fine, so what’s the problem? In this blog, we’re going to look at other ways sitting up straight can affect your body, and why you should make an effort to do so.
As we will come to see throughout this blog, how you sit has a big effect on your internal organs. The lungs are an example of this, as slouching makes it harder for them to breathe. This is not because the physical act of slouching compresses your lungs in any way, but because it can affect the surrounding muscles and tendons. Over time, slouching can cause the muscles and tendons in your chest to become shortened, which can reduce your ability to breathe by up to 30%. This has a knock-on effect in that the reduced breathing ability means you get less oxygen to your brain, which hurts your ability to concentrate.
Oxygen isn’t the only chemical process that slouching can affect. You may have heard that smiling can actually bring on a happy feeling, or that striking “power poses” before work can make you more confident. Well these actually have scientific proof behind them. Like how pavlov realised the sound of a bell could make his dogs salivate if he rang one at every feeding, our bodies are used to releasing certain hormones for certain cues. Slouching causes an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, while sitting up straight causes it to decrease, but increases testosterone. So how you sit can actually affect your mood as your body reacts to these cues, giving you the choice of being grumpy, or confident.
While it may take a while for your lungs to feel the adverse effects of slouching, some organs will be affected immediately. One such example is the digestive system. Some of your internal organs, such as the stomach or the intestines, can be compressed and even move when you slouch, which makes it more difficult to digest food. Not only does slouching physically interfere with the digestive process, it does so chemically as well, since the increased pressure also reduces blood flow and oxygenation to the area. All of this makes it harder to digest, and can result in issues such as heartburn, constipation, malabsorption, gas, and hernias.
When you think about slouching being bad for your back, you probably think about your spine. It is true that slouching is bad for our spines, but a lot of the pain associated with slouching actually comes from our muscles. Usually it is the neck, shoulder, or lower-back muscles that are affected, but your core and buttocks can be affected as well. This is in-part due to what we mentioned earlier, about muscles becoming shortened over time. But it is also because slouching puts the pressure on the wrong muscles, which causes them to become tired and overworked doing a job they’re not made for. At the same time, the muscles that should be doing that work, and are when we’re not slouching, are growing weaker and stiffer.
As we can see, the benefits of sitting up straight go far beyond avoiding a sore back. Slouching can affect your body in a lot of different ways, and avoiding it can make life a lot easier. To learn more about how you should sit, particularly for extended periods of time, visit our blog on that topic.