The Nuance

Good Posture Matters Even More Than You Think

But posture-correcting gadgets probably aren’t the answer

Markham Heid
Published in
4 min readMay 16, 2019
Credit: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

GGive this a try: Stand with your head drooped and your shoulders rounded forward as though you’re playing a little old lady in a high school play. Try to take a few deep breaths.

Now stand with your head up, your neck straight, and your shoulders pulled back so that they’re in line with your chest. Again, take a few deep breaths. Notice how much easier it is to breathe when you’re standing up straight?

“Posture isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about keeping the entire body functioning normally,” says Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy at New York University.

While many view good posture as a relic of some bygone and backward era — the kind of thing young women once learned in finishing school — experts say posture plays an important role in physical and psychological health.

Along with impairing breathing, poor posture makes it difficult for a person to turn their head or raise their arms above their head, Moffat explains. It also “compresses the inner abdominal organs,” she says, and strains a person’s spine in ways that, over time, can lead to back and neck pain.

Headaches are another concern. Craning your head forward all day long — a pose some experts refer to as “tech neck” because of its association with smartphone and computer use — can create chronic tension in the muscles of the neck and back, which can lead to headaches, says Wendy Katzman, a professor of physical therapy at the University of California, San Francisco. “Poor posture can also cause nerve problems and numbness and tingling in the arms and legs,” she says.

On top of all this, a 2012 study from San Francisco State University linked poor posture to low mood. “We found that if people had a history of depression, slouching seemed to activate those memories and evoke feelings of hopelessness,” says Erik Peper, a professor at SFSU and first author of the study.

Some of the research on posture and mood is controversial. But Peper says that every thought and emotion seems to have a corresponding body activity — and triggers can work in both directions…



Markham Heid

I’m a long-time contributor at TIME and other media orgs. I write mostly about health. I grew up in Michigan, but these days I live in southwest Germany.