If you hear the words ‘perfect posture’, you’re most likely thinking about sitting tall with your chin slightly tucked and the shoulders rolled back. While this pose brings about some benefits, we’re completely missing the mark if we label this as the end-all-be-all position.
I hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as perfect posture.
There’s an element far more important than the mechanics of your sitting position, and that’s how often you change it. As hard as it may be, it’s time to throw away what we’ve been taught about proper sitting form. The expectation that we should all be sitting ‘tall and proud’ 24/7 is not only unrealistic, but it can be downright harmful to the body.
Simply put, your next posture is your best posture. We weren’t build to sit like meerkats, so why should we?
Transforming Your Perspective on Posture
There are 3 important factors that solidify the rationale that a perfect posture doesn’t matter, nor does it even exist. This content was inspired by a podcast featuring Dr. Sam Spinelli, I’d highly recommend checking him out if you’re wanting a deeper dive.
1) Sitting upright is a less mechanically advantageous position to be in. If you’re struggling through a 9–5, it’s going to be far more efficient from an energetic output standpoint to slouch a little. While we shouldn’t be encouraging the same slouched posture over the long term, it’s completely fine to be a little lazy with it as long as your environment is set up properly and you frequently change positions.
2) The ‘perfect posture’ prevents disc fluid movement. If we’re so caught up in staying as tall as possible, it’s much harder to get proper discal fluid shifts. This is where frequent movement is so vital. Even the slightest change in position will alter the gradient of pressure within the spine to freshly circulate chemicals, contributing to homeostasis between the discs. Again, we shouldn’t be intentionally getting into awkward positions, but a little slouch or imbalance can actually be beneficial here, as long as you switch it up.
3) Posture isn’t as tied to pain as you think it is. There is an overwhelming amount of research to back this up. To get started, just take a look at this article. This is the most harmful posture myth out there by far. There is good evidence to show that this faulty belief can create or worsen pain, far more than the actual posture you’re in. This is frequently labeled as the ‘nocebo effect’. Do you know what is well linked to pain in the research? A lack of resistance training, cardio, and occupational health.
All of these points lead to one major finding: your specific posture isn’t actually all that important. What is crucial, however, is how often you change your position, how much exercise you’re getting, and how healthy your mindset is around pain.
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but feel free to be a little lazy with your posture. You can slouch a bit, lean to one side, and even put your elbow up on the desk. As long as you’re shifting positions, you’ll be far better off with this strategy than with a hyperawareness that every tissue in your body must be in perfect alignment all the time.
Pain Risk Factors That Go Under The Radar
We can get so caught up in blaming our posture for pain, that we easily forget the other factors that pull us out of homeostasis. Instead of perfecting your biomechanics, turn to these 4 pillars and see just how quickly your pain can subside.
Sleep: work on getting 7–9 hours per night and set a consistent bedtime.
Stress Management: set aside time to debrief each week. Try going for a walk or starting a journaling practice.
Occupational Health: take ergonomics seriously. Are you being provided with a safe and efficient workspace with ample time for breaks and recovery?
Nutrition: try to stay to the outside aisles of the grocery store and focus on putting whole foods into your body that give you energy as opposed to bogging you down.
My Best Advice For Your Posture
I intentionally didn’t place exercise in the four pillars above because it deserves its own spotlight. I’m a strong believer that the absolute best thing you can do for your posture is to forget about your posture and start lifting weights. For the majority of healthy individuals, moving through compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts will do far more for you than any postural drill will. Additionally, a consistent cardio regime can support general health and boost the robustness of your joints/tissues.
**If you have any concerns about exercise, please check in with your health provider before moving forward.
The perfect posture doesn’t exist, and working to find one is only going to do you more harm than good. What’s much more important than the mechanics of your sitting position is how often you change it. Instead of hyper-focusing on posture, let’s get intentional about general wellness. Starting an exercise routine and building in stress-relieving habits is going to do far more for you than striving for postural perfection. Most importantly, never forget that your next posture is your best posture.
One more time for the people in the back…
Your next posture is your best posture.