According to exercise physiologists, poor posture can lead to bad moods and make you feel more stressed and depressed. While there is not yet evidence that poor posture is directly related to serious health issues, such as clinical depression and anxiety, a number of studies have suggested that it may exacerbate symptoms of those disorders.
“We’re a very forward-leaning society—we drive forward, lean forward, slouch over our desks all day,” said William Smith, an exercise physiologist in Morristown, New Jersey, and co-author of Exercises for Perfect Posture.
Even if your mental health is good, there are many benefits of practicing proper posture, according to Health.
You’ll feel happier and more energetic
“Over time, sustained slumped-forward posture creates unnecessary stress and strains your spine,” said Steven D’Ambroso, PT, DPT, a physical therapist with Professional Physical Therapy in New York. “That can make you feel heavy and achy, which leads to being tired and irritable.”
Research has validated the connection between poor posture and fatigue, especially in people who suffer from depression. One study, published in 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, found that patients with mild to moderate depression felt more alert and experienced less anxiety after simply keeping their back and shoulders upright while sitting.
You’ll get a confidence boost
“If you carry yourself in a certain way” — shoulders back, abdomen in, spine aligned — “it exudes confidence and an affable demeanor,” Smith said.
Research has revealed that practicing good posture makes people appear more confident and causes them to feel better about themselves. A study in Health Psychology found that people who felt stressed improved their mood and boosted their self-esteem by sitting upright. Separate research found that proper posture was associated with better body image among people with depression.
You’ll be less guarded
“So much of how we communicate is non-verbal, and I’ve noticed that if someone has a slouched posture or altered gait, it often indicates that there’s something they’re not willing to talk about or tell you,” said Smith. “There’s a lot to be said for just standing up, pulling your shoulders back, and saying ‘I’m going to face the day.'”
When working to perfect your posture, pay attention to how you are sitting and standing, and remember to engage your core as much as possible. D’Ambroso advises those who have a desk job to make sure that their computer, keyboard, and chair are ergonomically adjusted.
“I recommend getting up every 45 minutes to an hour to walk around, reposition your spine, and improve circulation,” he said.
When repositioning yourself, D’Ambroso recommends strengthening your muscles with scapula squeezes, which are done by pulling your arms back and pinching your shoulder blades. Doing 5-10 press-ups on your elbows every hour or two is also recommended to gently stretch your lower spine.
Smith also suggests doing planks and back extensions, along with other mood-boosting activities, such as meditation and mindfulness.
“These practices are taking off now because people know they need to center themselves,” says Smith. “Good posture is just a piece of that.”