When I was a young girl, my grandmother would always praise me for sitting up straight and having good posture. She paid attention to things like that because her brother and his wife were osteopaths. My mom further promoted good posture at home and even walking. We were those kids that practiced walking with books on our heads on the carpets and even tried it going up and downstairs. In high school, I was in the marching band, and posture is incredibly important while playing an instrument and marching.
I have to confess that walking isn't nearly as strenuous on my body as marching. Standing at attention and holding your shoulders for several minutes at a time or high-stepping while playing actually takes some serious muscle coordination and muscle development. This is one of the reasons I am a strong advocate for marching band students to receive school physicals. Walking alone strengthens your body's muscles. I notice a considerable difference in my leg and hip muscles, and even the muscles in the core of my body when I walk for long periods of time. If I don't lose weight when I am walking the excess weight shifts to other body parts that are not having as much of a muscular workout.
|Photo by Jeanette R. Harrison|
When you are walking, you exercise a lot of the muscles in your body. You exercise your legs, your feet (yes, your feet have muscles), your core, your back, your shoulders, your arms, and even the muscles of your neck. That is, you are exercising all of those muscles when you have good posture. When you slouch while walking or running, you don't let all the muscle groups of the body get a workout, and you don't allow the muscles to give you the maximum benefit. The more muscle groups you use when exercising, the easier the exercising becomes.
Slouching when you walk actually weakens the muscle and may contribute to back humps that can be a result of osteoporosis. Having stronger muscles in the back and legs helps strengthen your back, too. Did you know that your leg muscles actually "insert" into the lower back? If you have a low backache, you may need to stretch your legs and not just your arms and back.
Having good posture also helps with breathing, and a good breathing pattern is crucial to any workout. When you slouch or have poor posture, you collapse the respiratory system. Slouching closes up the lungs rather than opening them up and allowing more air in. It also closes up the trachea and other parts of the respiratory system. Have you ever used a hose that had a kink in it or was bent? Did you notice that the water didn't flow as freely out of the hose? That's what happens with your respiratory system when you don't have good posture. You don't allow the air to flow as freely into and out of your body. When you are exercising, your body uses more oxygen and more carbon dioxide, so you want to allow your respiratory system to work as efficiently as possible.