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3 unexpected ways good posture can boost the brain and body

Studies have shown that sitting up straight isn't just good for your health.

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As Americans, we tend to slouch — a lot. After all, we spend hours looking at our smartphones and computers. Bad posture can cause chronic pain and lead to health issues such as circulation problems if left unchecked. But most Americans don’t seem to care about bad posture, according to Orlando Health, which found in a survey that only less than half of respondents said they were concerned about poor posture and its impact on their health.

Don’t be like most people: Focus on your posture! Not only is it good for your health, but good posture will also boost your confidence and performance, according to science.

3. Straighter spine, higher confidence

A study out of Ohio State University found that people who were told to sit up straight actually had more confidence when it came to applying to a job. In an experiment, 71 students were told they’d be taking part in two studies at the same time, one from a business school and the other an arts school. In both, they were tasked with maintaining a specific posture while doing other things with instructions such as “sit up straight” and “push out [their] chest” or “sit slouched forward” with their “face looking at [their] knees.”

The students were then asked to rate themselves on how well they would do as a future professional employee. Those who held the upright, confident posture were much more likely to rate themselves in line with the positive or negative traits they wrote down.

“Their confident, upright posture gave them more confidence in their own thoughts, whether they were positive or negative,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology. “People assume their confidence is coming from their own thoughts. They don’t realize their posture is affecting how much they believe in what they’re thinking.”

2. Perceived power comes from good posture

Posture expansiveness is when you open up your body to take up space. Research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that it activates people’s sense of power no matter their rank or hierarchical role in an organization. The study authors also concluded that posture may be more important to a person’s psychological manifestations of power than their title or rank.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers conducted three experiments tasking subjects to be in different positions of either open or closed postures. Subjects reported more feelings of power in open postures.

“[People] don’t realize their posture is affecting how much they believe in what they’re thinking.”

“Our research suggests that your posture may be quite literally the way to put your best foot forward in a job interview,” said Kellogg School of Management professor Adam Galinsky.

Good posture doesn’t just make people feel more powerful mentally, however. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that “ those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.”

1. Proper performance posture

If you want to perform better, all you may need to do is simply have better posture, suggests researchers at San Francisco State University. It certainly couldn't hurt. The researchers tasked 125 college students with simple math, such as subtracting 7 from 843 sequentially for 15 seconds while they were either slumped over or sitting up straight with shoulders back and relaxed. Fifty-six percent of the students reported said they found it easier to do the math in the upright position.

Slumping over is a defensive posture that can trigger old negative memories in the body and brain, said the study authors. Although this study was fairly limited, the researchers said their findings about body position can help people prepare for many different types of performance under stress.

“The way we carry ourselves and interact in space influences not only how others perceive us,” said Lauren Mason, one of the paper’s authors, “but also how we perceive ourselves.”

Abstract:

This study investigates posture on mental math performance. 125 students (M = 23.5 years) participated as part of a class activity. Half the students sat in an erect position while the other half sat in a slouched position and were asked to mentally subtract 7 serially from 964 for 30 seconds. They then reversed the positions before repeating the math subtraction task beginning at 834. They rated the math task difficulty on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (extreme). The math test was rated significantly more difficult while sitting slouched (M = 6.2) than while sitting erect (M = 4.9) ANOVA [F(1,243) = 17.06, p < 0.001]. Participants with the highest test anxiety, math difficulty and blanking out scores (TAMDBOS) rated the math task significantly more difficult in the slouched position (M = 7.0) as compared to the erect position (M = 4.8) ANOVA [F(1,75) = 17.85, p < 0.001]. Tor the participants with the lowest 30% TAMDBOS, there was no significant difference between slouched (M=4.90) and erect positions (M = 4.0). The participants with the highest TAMDBOS experienced significantly more somatic symptoms as compared with the lowest TAMDBOS. Discussed are processes such as stereotypic threat associated with a ‘defense reaction’ by which posture can affect mental math and inhibit abstract thinking. Moreover, clinicians who work with students who have learning difficulty may improve outcome if they include posture changes.
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