If you listened to your parents every time they shouted at you to sit up straight, you probably don't need to be reading this. But chances are you didn't (sorry, Mum!) and it's possible that right this minute you're slumped in a chair with your shoulders so far forward you could very easily fold in half. Despite how comfortable you might feel slouching at your desk, good posture is the sh*t and totally worth correcting — as we discovered when we spoke to Dell-Maree Day, creator of The Invisible Exercise.
Ask Dell-Maree about the importance of a good, strong posture and she won't hold back. It's not only important because it keeps you upright, but because your body will function 100 times better and you can shrink your waist just by activating the right muscles.
Yeah, you read that right. Shrink. Your. WAIST.
The human body has about 639 muscles, but according to Dell-Maree when most people are sitting they're only using about 10! "That's roughly 10 dominate muscles dictating how most people sit, which is why we're sitting so poorly," says Dell-Maree. These conscious muscles Dell-Maree speaks of are stopping our subconscious/invisible muscles from firing like they should, which causes our bodies to be more susceptible to injuries and horrible posture.
"More than three quarters of the body's muscles are effectively invisible, you can't see them, but their job is to keep every bone perfectly in place all day — and for most people that's just not happening," says Dell-Maree. "Which is part of the reason we have such a high rate of musculoskeletal injury."
But back to our shrinking waist lines because, let's be real, that's why we're all here . . .
Most of our subconscious muscles are our breathing muscles and these are important muscles where ideal posture is concerned. "There are 200 muscles that are meant to fire in a perfect domino chain every time you inhale and every time you exhale," says Dell-Maree. But she admits, correct use of these muscles is a rarity among humans.
Interestingly, "When you have the correct posture seated, the first muscle that will be activated is your deepest abdominal muscle. It's your first breathing muscle, the only muscle that can give you flat, narrow abdominals — it's the ultimate subconscious muscle," says Dell-Maree. So when sitting correctly, you're burning more calories because you have more of your muscles — not just your 10 dominant friends, like the hip flexor and upper traps — working all day. Together your subconscious muscles are shaping your body (i.e. shrinking your waist!) as you sit.
So How Do We Create the Perfect Posture?
The secret lies in what you shouldn't do. Dell-Maree admits the biggest mistake we make when it comes to staying upright is over-correcting. Sitting super-straight, pulling your shoulder blades back and down, and squeezing your tummy muscles all day isn't considered correct posture. "What that's doing is forcing your body to use its dominate muscles. It's an over-correction, so those people end up with more aches and pains instead of a perfectly stacked spine," says Dell-Maree. "Instead I recommend people literally relax!"
Avoid over-correcting and focus on placing your feet flat on the floor and encourage your heels to track below your knees. Dell-Maree suggests thinking about sitting tall and relaxed on the front half of your chair will see your spine stack correctly. Over time — we're talking six to 10 weeks — those subconscious muscles will kick in and give your super-controlling dominant muscles a well-deserved break and make way for better looking posture, and waistline.
Need more help? Dell-Maree has a 10-week online program designed to help train your muscle memory into using your invisible muscles — it's worth a try if you want to see huge results.