By Kim Duke

There is a physical deformity crisis that has been developing for years. I see it on a daily basis on the streets, in restaurants and even in my studio. I refer to it as “schlumpiness.”

That’s right, schlumpiness, which means posture befitting our prehistoric predecessors. Just picture the prehistoric man with rounded shoulders, slouching necks, dragging their knuckles, only, in today’s version, they walk slower so they can still look at their phones and view their Facebook/Instagram/Snap Chat feeds.   

Industrialization brought an increase in sitting to the modern world. And modern technology has given us devices that we hold and view while hunched over. Yet these advancements are ironically devolving our species a bit; part of what makes us human is our ability to walk upright, and yet here we are creeping around where we once stood tall.

“Stand up straight.” That’s timeless advice we’ve probably all heard at one time or another. It’s worth heeding. Good posture is important to balance: by standing up straight, you center your weight over your feet. This also helps you maintain correct form while exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains. And working on balance can even strengthen your abilities in tennis, golf, running, skiing — and just about any other sport or activity.

Not an athlete? It still pays to have good balance. Just walking across the floor or down the block requires good balance, as does rising from a chair, going up and down stairs, toting packages and even turning to look behind you.

I’ve spent many hours researching the benefits and mechanics of good posture.  Here are some of the interesting things I found out:

Improves bodily alignment — When you stand and sit with your body properly aligned, all your organs can function as intended. This includes your stomach, which is why good posture may improve digestion.

Eliminates back and neck pain — When you have proper posture, your bones and spine can easily and efficiently balance and support your body’s weight. When you have improper posture, muscles, tendons and ligaments have to constantly work to support that same weight. This extra, inefficient effort can lead to back and neck pain that can often lead to headaches. Focusing on improving your posture can go a long way to remedying these problems.

Improves breathing — To work efficiently, your lungs need room to expand in your chest. When you’re slumped over, your rib cage collapses a bit, leaving less room for your lungs to open, which in turn cause inefficient breathing.

Makes you look taller and slimmer — Some poor posture positions cause your belly to protrude. And slumping over makes you appear shorter than you are. Standing up straight will correct these issues and improve your appearance.

Makes you feel confident and powerful — There’s a reason militaries have focused for more than a century on giving their soldiers posture training. They’ve seen that standing straight improves troops’ bearing and morale, and now modern researchers have started to prove this intuitive observation. Studies have emerged that illuminate the power of the mind/body connection and particularly how physical posture and body language affects how we feel mentally and emotionally. What researchers are finding is not only does having good posture make you seem powerful to others, it makes you feel powerful yourself.

Improves mood — Not only can standing and sitting with good posture make you feel more confident and powerful, but it can also boost your happiness. One study found that when people assumed slouched or slumped postures while asked to recall memories, they were more likely to remember sad and depressive episodes. Individuals in upright positions, on the other hand, were more likely to recall happy and positive memories.

So, if you think you may be starting to see the onset of schlumpiness in your posture, don’t fret. Standing up tall with your head high and shoulders back is free of charge and can do wonders for your body’s ability to function properly, your mood and your confidence.

The good news: You can improve your posture with a few simple exercises. Balance-specific workouts address posture and balance problems with exercises that build strength where it counts and stretches that loosen tight muscles. Quick posture checks in the mirror before and during balance exercises can also help you get the most from your regular workout. And increasing your core strength and flexibility can help you improve your posture noticeably in just a few weeks.