As we age, weak muscles and years of poor postural habits can lead to an exaggerated forward curvature of the spine, causing a neck hump or kyphosis.
While structural kyphosis may be congenital, or due to structural spinal issues, postural kyphosis is easily correctable with a conscious effort, and this is what we will be focusing on in this article.
A neck hump is not a requisite condition of aging. In fact, a “modern” postural disorder called Forward Head Posture (FHP), also known as “text neck,” occurs in people of any age, mostly due to the extended use of cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices.
But what you may not know is how poor posture, including kyphosis and FHP, can affect your stress response and mood.
Today we're going to examine how proper posture can make all the difference in how you see the world, and how the world sees you. We'll also show you a simple exercise that can correct postural kyphosis and FHP.
How Nodding Your Head Helps Your Bones And Attitude
In previous articles we've discussed the effects of stress on bone health, and how transforming fear and worry can make a positive difference in your life.
What may surprise you, however, is that slouching impacts your mood and your brain function. In fact, something as simple as an affirmative nod of the head can influence your thoughts, turning worry and negativity into self-assurance.
One study found that basic head movements such as nodding or shaking your head do more than send a “yes” or “no” message to others. They also influence the person who is nodding or shaking his head, in effect boosting or decreasing confidence in your own thoughts.1 Someone who feels confident is more likely to stand up straighter, and therefore, have better posture, which also improves mood, increases energy, and more, as you’ll read next.
Kyphosis is a condition in which the upper body appears hunchbacked due to weakness in the spinal bones and muscles and gets exacerbated by poor chronic postural habits. Neither kyphosis nor Forward Head Posture (FHP) are an inevitable part of aging. Both conditions can be easily corrected with targeted exercises and postural changes. New research also makes a case for how posture and head movements affect mood. A simple nod equates to self-confidence, whereas shaking the head “no” in effect tells someone they lack confidence. Lacking confidence often leads to poor posture.
Power Posing For Health And Success
It is fascinating to discover that posture affects how we think and act (e.g., positive or negative thoughts). and how this, in turn, affects our mood is really eye-opening. Now you know that your mother's advice to “sit up straight!” is grounded in science, because improving your posture improves your mood– and your bone health.
In one experiment, researchers at San Francisco State University had students either skip and swing their arms or slouch as they walked down the hall. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first group reported feeling energetic and happy. The slouchers felt sad, lonely, sleepy and isolated.2
In another study, researchers from Harvard University had 62 students at Columbia University employ “power poses” before an important mock life event, such as a job interview or giving a speech. Participants sat in either a high-power pose (expansive posture) or low-power pose (leaning in, with legs crossed), for two minutes. Again, not surprisingly, those who adopted the high-power poses felt more powerful, had better recall, and performed better in the resulting task than those who felt ineffectual.3
Furthermore, the research demonstrated that the way others respond to you is based on your posture as well. In other words, good posture makes a good impression.3
What's more, a powerful, open posture also affects hormones, decreasing levels of the bone-damaging stress hormone cortisol. 4
Your mother's directive to “Sit up straight!” is grounded in science. Researchers have found that posture has a strong effect on how we feel, and on how others perceive us. What's more, proper posture decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, protecting your bones.
If You Feel Stressed, Straighten Your Spine
Other research corroborates the Harvard and San Francisco State studies on slouching and mood. A New Zealand team measured heart rate and blood pressure while 74 study participants completed a series of tasks designed to assess their mood, self-esteem and stress levels.
The “slumped” participants, like those in the San Francisco study, reported feeling more fearful, nervous, passive, dull, sleepy, and even hostile, compared with “straight” posture participants, who reported higher self-esteem and more positive emotions.5
As Savers know, fear, nervousness and stress lead to increased levels of bone-damaging cortisol. The good posture participants also had stronger pulses than their slouching counterparts, which infers that good posture is also good for heart health.5
Good posture also enables you to breathe deeply, and deep breathing alkalizes the blood, which essential to prevent and reverse bone loss.
People who slouch feel more stressed than those who maintain an upright, healthy posture. Good posture also allows you to breathe deeply, which alkalizes the serum pH and helps to stop bone loss.
Corrective Exercise For Slouched Shoulders
One of the best ways to correct and prevent kyphosis and Forward Head Posture is by strengthening your shoulders. This exercise will gently enhance the muscle tone in your shoulders, which in turn will help keep your spine straight and enable you to hold your head in alignment.
- Sit in a loose, cross-legged position on a mat or carpeted area. If this is too difficult for you, you can sit in a firm, straight-backed chair without armrests.
- Holding your arms out to your sides parallel to the floor, move them back and then forward slowly for a count of 30 seconds.
- Try not to bend your back. Stare at a point at eye-level to maintain your focus.
- Be sure to do this exercise slowly to avoid injuring your neck or your shoulders.
- Repeat 10 times or as many times as you comfortably can.
A posture exercise to prevent rounded shoulders will help you avoid a neck hump and Forward Head Posture (FHP). Strong shoulders support your spine and neck, which in turn help keep your posture straight and prevents kyphosis and FHP.
Better Posture, Better Attitude, Better Bones
It's surprising to know that something as simple as how we hold our head, and whether we stand up straight or slouch, can have such a profound effect on how we see the world, and how the world sees us — and more surprisingly, whether our bones are strong and flexible or brittle and weak. By maintaining proper posture, you will improve your mood, make a positive impression on others, and keep your bones healthy.
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1 Brinol, P. & Petty R.E. 2003, “Overt head movements and persuasion: A self-validation analysis”. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 84(6), 1123-1139. Web. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-00779-004 /
2 Erik Peper, PhD, “Increase or Decrease Depression: How Body Postures Influence Your Energy Level”, Biofeedback, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp. 125–130. Web. https://biofeedbackhealth.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/a-published-increase-or-decrease-depression.pdf/
3 Amy J.C. Cuddy et al., “The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation”, Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-027, September 2012. Web. https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/9547823/
4 Dana R. Carney et al., “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Psychological Science, Sep. 21, 2010. Web. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20855902/
5 Nair, S., et al., “Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial.” Health Psychology, Vol 34(6), Jun 2015, 632-641. Web. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-37739-001/