August 25, 2022

Stand up straight…-ish

“Pull your shoulders back. Pull your stomach in. Put your weight mostly on the balls of your feet.”


With so many emphatic recommendations surrounding the concept of “proper posture,” it can be difficult to figure out what is actually “correct.”  Even more confusing can be the contradiction experienced when trying to follow all these recommendations, and then feeling exhausted, or sometimes feeling worse!  Luckily, despite the array of rigid opinions on posture, the truth is likely a bit more vague, but also a bit more forgiving.  While it’s not technically incorrect that there will be an ideal posture which optimizes physical loading through our bodies in specific positions, the relevance of general recommendations for posture is limited for a couple of reasons.


  •  Everyone’s a little different.  Providing a specific position as “correct” for the general population ignores the realities of individual idiosyncratic structures.  That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a general concept of an optimal posture, but the steps towards achieving that posture are going to be different for each individual.  Thus, “stand like a superhero” may be a good recommendation for one person, but for someone else it may push them away from their individual ideal.  Taken further, one cue might work for sitting, but not for standing for that same person.


  • We’re not mannequins.  Most recommendations for posture implicitly assume that we’re not moving.  Granted, a large proportion of employment these days is done in very close vicinity to a keyboard, but even then there is constant movement, albeit in a small range.  In other words, prioritizing a static position as an ideal is arguably less important than prioritizing ways to allow yourself to change positions more often throughout the day.  Sure, keeping yourself a bit closer to an ideal while you’re sitting or standing is likely a positive thing, but if you’re having to hold your breath due to the effort required to achieve the position or it makes you feel terrible, it’s probably not worth it.


To sum that all up, while it’s a positive thing to strive for a more optimal posture, the one-size-fits-all recommendations may not actually fit, and it may be more beneficial to focus on integrating movement breaks into your day than to maintain a “perfect” static posture.

James Gillan, PT, DPT, CSCS, OCS

Downtown Clinic