Good posture is an uber-important part of a healthy lifestyle, yet it's something you probably always put off until later—you know, like switching to decaf or watching less TV. But we're guessing you don't realise all of the ways in which standing up straighter can impact your life. Just check out these changes that you can expect when you finally do stop slouching:
1. You’ll score more energy.
"Standing with optimal posture allows your diaphragm to work more efficiently, which can make breathing easier and less laboured," says Alynn Dukart, certified strength and conditioning specialist and wellness physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. A forward, rounded posture (say, from hunching over your laptop) restricts the expansion of your rib cage as you breathe, compresses your diaphragm, and can even decrease lung capacity, making the whole breathing thing hella awkward. Efficient breathing, on the other hand, regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout your body and keeps you energised, says Henry Halse, a Philadelphia-based certified strength and conditioning specialist.
2. You’ll burn more calories.
Good posture improves circulation and allows you to take in more oxygen, which can make your workouts feel easier, says Halse. Because your joints are in a better position when you stand tall, you can pull off more calorie-torching movements than someone with bad posture, especially if you dig workouts like yoga and Pilates. Translation: less pain, more gain.
3. You’ll experience fewer headaches.
If you deal with tension headaches on the regular, crappy posture could be to blame. "Tension headaches are usually caused by a tight neck, upper back, and jaw muscles, and it's most often the forward head and forward shoulders posture that causes this," says Dukart. "Over time, if the muscle tightness becomes chronic, trigger points can develop, and this can cause radiating pain in your head." To help nix the headaches, make sure your ears are always aligned over your shoulders, and gently press your shoulders down away from your ears, says Dukart. Finally, squeeze your shoulder blades back and together, like you're tucking your shoulder into your back pocket.
4. You’ll give your joints a breather.
Using bad posture can wreak havoc on youexample, places oodles of stress on your shoulder joint, neck, and surrounding muscles, which can lead to pain and injury, says Dukart. "Research has shown that for every inch of a forward head posture, it increases the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds," she adds. Another common no-no is tipping your pelvis forward, which stresses out your spine and can lead to decreased core strength, as well as back and hip pain. Over the long haul, bad posture can lead to icky things, like tendonitis and bone spurs, says Halse. Good posture aligns and balances your muscles, decreasing joint compression and your risk of injury.
5. You’ll stress less.
A recent study from the University of Auckland found that sitting up straight can be used as a coping mechanism against stress. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups and asked to complete a stress-inducing task. The first group completed the task in an upright position, while the second group did so getting their slouch on. After the task was over, participants who used good posture reported "feeling more enthusiastic, excited, and strong." Meanwhile, slumped participants reported feeling more "fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish." Researchers suspect that sitting up straight can stimulate physiological arousal, such as a spike in blood pressure, and trigger a coping response to stress. When your body isn't positioned properly, it may eff with how your hormones and nervous system function, altering your mood.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.