Sitting Pretty

Did your mother, like mine always tell you to sit up straight at the dinner table? My mother was persistent with this advice but as a kid I never understood why it was so important. Now I teach clients the benefits of sitting and standing tall to keep their pelvic floor and core muscles active in their low level endurance mode.

The inner cylinder of postural muscles switches on when we become upright each morning and responds with higher bursts of activity depending on the task involved. Our commonly adopted position of slumped sitting switches off these muscles which help control internal organ support, spinal stability and protect joints against wear and tear from gravitational loading when we sit, stand, walk and exercise.

Try this activity to reinforce why posture correction is an essential daily habit to maintain core/postural muscle endurance. Sit on the edge of your chair and become aware of what happens to your pelvic floor muscles with changes of position. Go into a full slump then grow tall through the crown of your head. Try this action again and become aware of how the pelvic floor relaxes with slumping and then firms when you sit tall without any effort to actively contract these muscles. What a powerful reminder to stay tall when sitting and standing! If you constantly suck your waist in, let go of this unnecessary muscle tension and let the pelvic and upper body postural muscles do their work of holding you upright.

Years ago I was involved in a study looking at the effect of posture on pelvic floor muscles in sitting. Pelvic floor muscle activity was recorded via a vaginal electrode to a computer. When the women in the study were fully slumped minimal electrical activity was recorded from their pelvic floor muscles. When asked to sit ‘tall’ the computer screen recorded high levels of pelvic floor muscle electrical activity. An easy way to maintain tall posture is to grow tall through the crown of your head then put one finger on your sternum and the other over your pubic bone. If the line between these two points shortens, it’s time to grow tall again.