Why tall people have bad posture and tips to fix it for anyone (even if you're not that tall)

in #health6 years ago (edited)

The title can be a little misleading as not all tall people suffer from bad posture, but a lot of them (myself included) did or still do. That's why I'd like to share a personal story, a short one, I promise, that applies to other tall people.

For the majority of my life I've almost always been one of the tallest members of any group I've been a part of. This was true in primary school, all through middle school, and high school as well. The reason I think this is relevant is because my height was the factor that made me 'different' from the rest of the people my own age around me. The significance of this is that if a person feels from a young age that they are somehow different from the other members of the group they want to be a part of, they might do certain things to try and fit in better. Oddly enough this applies to height as well.

Strategies for fitting in will most likely not go as far as chopping off 7 or 8 inches from their legs to make them look shorter, that might prove to be quite an inconvenience. So what young people are often left with is stooping down, slouching to the other kids' physical height, so as not to stand out like a giraffe in a heard of zebras. Unbeknownst to them, months, then years will eventually pass by, time in which this behaviour will be reinforced and become second nature. I myself went through this quite a lot when I was in school, and of course did not realise it at the time, but cranking my neck down to the level of my classmates and friends contributed to and perhaps was the main cause of bad posture all through my teens and into my early twenties. Frankly, I didn't even realise at the time that I had bad posture. Like many others, my brain was very preoccupied with how my body looked from the front, as seen when looking in a mirror. So my trips to the gym began at 15 to try and improve my physical attributes, but of course only the ones I though relevant. So what would get done? Only exercises like bench press, crunches and bicep curls for example. All of them exercises that emphasise the front of the body. What effect did this have? I'd like to ask you to take a wild guess. Let's just say that by age 16, if someone would have compared a side view photo of me with a photo of a jumbo shrimp taken from the same angle, the difference could have been considered negligible.
This went on for years to come and I was still oblivious to the fact that had I at any point in that timeframe applied to be the poster boy for bad posture, hyper kyphosis in particular, slouching in layman's terms, my acceptance would have been virtually guaranteed. Granted, it might not be the most elegant way to put this, but I was essentially a hunchback.

It was only in my early twenties that I even started to realise I had this problem. Imagine the destructive effects bad habits can have over years and years when we're not even aware of them.
The realisation that my posture was all out of whack came over me whilst listening to an interview with a professional competitive dancer. She kept saying how important it was for the competing couples to display great posture while dancing, and even in the breaks in between style changes, as the judges can pick up on the slightest slip up in form. I then watched a couple of videos of dance competitions and it hit me that I was not standing anywhere near as straight as those people. Every single one of them had their shoulders pulled back and their chest pushed out in front. Sure, it might have seemed a little bit over the top for the average person to stand like that in everyday life, but nevertheless it was a wake up call and made me realise just how far down the rabbit hole I had gone when it came to emphasising bad posture habits.
From then, I started to try and correct these bad habits and replace them with ones that would serve me better. The journey is still ongoing and it's not the simplest of things to change a habit. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like flipping a switch and turning the habit on and off.
But I would like to share some of the tips and tricks I've used over the years to combat my bad posture, and these are things that can be implemented right away. They are simple things, but again, that does not mean they are not worth doing. A lot of simple things are worth doing. Simple concepts like exercising, reading, eating healthy, these are all worth doing, but they are quite simple in principle, are they not?
In conjunction with the appropriate physical exercises, they will help in eventually correcting your posture.

Please also remember that this is not a one time thing. We are discussing posture, implicitly the spine, something that we use (hopefully) everyday, so consequentially we must take care of it daily as well.
But enough about that, let's get to the actual tips and tricks.
The first step is learning what you want to achieve. In order to do that you must learn what good posture feels like for your own body. The vast majority of people with bad posture, which is the population I'm addressing now, suffer from hyper kyphosis, basically slouching.

Tip number 1

a) Take a photo of yourself from the side, while standing and holding your normal posture. Don't cheat by trying to correct it before taking the photo. You just want to be able to see where you are at this point in time.

Test photo 1.jpg

b) Take a second photo of yourself from the side, but this time, before taking the photo, imagine you are holding a long piece of string in your teeth. Someone is pulling firmly on that piece of string from above. Let the string straighten you up, but don't go up on your toes, stay flat on your feet and don't tilt your head back, just lift the chin a little bit. Now take the picture! I know it might feel a bit bizarre at first for your body to hold this position, but this is the posture you are aiming for.

Test photo2.jpg

Tip number 2

One of the most widespread causes of slouching nowadays is staring down at our phones. I get it, I love my phone too, it's an awesome gadget. The tip is the following:
Instead slouching and cranking your neck down to look at your phone, use your arms and hands to bring it up to eye level. I know, mind blown , right!?
This position might look a little bit strange to whoever is around you, but trust me, it looks far better than slouching and is infinitely better for the back and neck. And, as a bonus, if you keep the hands up long enough you'll start to feel a burn and get a nice shoulder workout that way too. Keeping your arms up for 10 minutes, even with a slight load like your phone, can be surprisingly challenging.

Phone photo wrong.jpg

Phone photo right.jpg

Tip number 3

Avoid sitting down on your butt in chairs or sofas as much as possible. This might be unachievable at times as no one wants to turn into the office weirdo for example, but do your best to sit down only when absolutely necessary.
At times when there is no one around you to be freaked out by this, sit in a squat position or semi lotus position, even if you do sit in a chair. It will get uncomfortable after a few minutes, so keep switching between the 2 positions.
Remember, even if you reduce your total sitting time by just 20%, it's still a huge win.

Sitting photo wrong.jpg

Sitting right 1.jpg

Sitting right 2.jpg

Bonus tip for tall people

Embrace the fact that you are tall. Don't feel compelled to slouch to get down to someone else's level. If you want to make eye contact, look down at (not on) them but don't modify your posture. They can look up at you with little effort and everyone is happy. They will not see you as a better person for modifying your posture in their presence, just as a tall person who slouches.

Thank you for reading my little rant, hope to catch you next time!


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