Sports Activities That Can Help You Improve Your Posture and General Health

Sports don’t always have to be about the fun and enjoyment you get when you play them. The decision of which ones to play can be based on purpose. One purpose you might choose could be to improve your posture, which in turn improves your general health.

If a sport improves your posture, then it’s preventing you from slouching. Slouching causes a cascade of negative reactions in the body. For example, it moves the organs out of their natural alignment. When an organ is situated properly, it’s able to receive maximum nourishment from the bloodstream and nervous system. But once it’s out of alignment, it won’t get the nutrition it needs, nor the nerve impulses it needs that spark the activities that come from that organ.

One of the worst effects of slouching is the compression that occurs in the chest. This ends up interfering with proper oxygenation of the entire body. When you give this concept some thought, you will realize that oxygen is the main nutrient each cell needs, and it’s a higher priority than vitamins, minerals, and anything else you may think necessary for survival.

What Does It Take For Good Posture to Occur?

You have specific muscles in your body that help you stand straight and tall. They work against gravity. Those muscles include:

  • Erector Spinae
  • Quadratus lumborum, a square-shaped muscle in the low back
  • Hip flexor muscles iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and TFL
  • Piriformis
  • Hip adductors
  • Plantar flexor muscles: gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior

Other muscles that act in combination with the postural muscles include:

  • Abdominal muscles
  • Gluteal muscles
  • Deep neck flexors
  • Rhomboid muscles

These muscles act in combination with the postural muscles and seldomly act alone.

Let’s take an example of someone that is hunched over at their desk during the work day and ends up with a forward head position. (This is where the person’s head is situated forward, mimicking a turtle head that is the first part of the body that precedes the rest of the body during walking.) In this situation, the erector spinae muscles have become ‘stuck’ in a forward position. The deep neck flexors, serratus anterior muscles, rhomboid and middle trapezius muscles are weak and won’t pull the head and upper spine backwards as they should.

The actual muscle fibers of the pectoralis major and cervical extensors are in a contracted position and begin to change anatomically, shortening. This body position cuts your oxygen supply, which affects everything in your life – your ability to think, endurance, and your general health.

Sports to Engage In to Improve Posture

The key then to improving your posture via sports is to not choose one-handed sports such as fencing, badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Instead, choose sports that engage both sides of the body. Here are a few options:

1. Ballet

Ballet is an indoor sport so you won’t benefit from sunshine when you participate in this activity but it’s still worth checking into no matter what your age.

Ballet strengthens a lot of different muscles in the body, including the external/internal oblique abdominal muscles, transversus and rectus abdominus, lower back muscles – erector spinae, serratus posterior, latissimus dorsi, hip muscles – iliopsoas, lateral rotator; gluteal muscles – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus.

You can see from this list that it includes postural and secondary posture muscles. Ballet is also fun and makes you feel like you are truly moving and stretching your entire body.

When compared to a sport such as rock climbing, ballet gets 10 stars for a posture-improving sport. In rock climbing, you will engage your gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles), which are important for good posture, but there’s little activity in the other primary and secondary postural muscles. Rock climbing uses the latissimus dorsi muscle and arm muscles primarily; which are of little benefit to posture.

2. Swimming

The muscles used during swimming are said to depend on the type of stroke used during the activity. However, here’s a chart that compares the muscles used during three different swimming strokes; see what you think…

Chart showing muscles used during three different swimming strokes.

Muscles used during three different swimming strokes.

From the above chart, you can see that the same muscles are engaged during all three different strokes – and quite a few of them are postural muscles and secondary posture muscles. There’s very little difference. The arm muscle tone you get from swimming is an extra benefit as are cardiovascular health benefits.

3. Ballroom dancing

In this indoor sport, you’ll get a good workout for your leg muscles, especially the erector spinae, gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius, quadriceps, arm muscles, trapezius, and abdominal muscles. You’re still missing the psoas muscle, piriformis, and hip adductors.

It is said that you’ll bend and straighten your knees five dozen times in two minutes of slow waltzing. You can expect better posture from ballroom dancing, great social time out at night and on weekends, and better socialization skills are linked to a longer life.

4. Powerlifting/Weight lifting

One of the reasons why posture collapses as we age is that there’s not enough tension or pressure on the bones. Weight lifting increases the tension on the bones and forces them to get stronger. Your bone density improves, but possibly equally as important is that the motions you perform during this activity will strengthen your erector spinae, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, gluteus, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior, abdominal muscles, quads, pectoralis, and arm/shoulder muscles.

Yes, it’s an indoor sport but you could always set up weight stations on your property outside or in the garage. And this sport is one of the few that addresses the tibialis posterior muscle.

One of the things you’ll notice with weight lifting is that right after your workout, it’s nearly impossible to fall back into a slouched posture.

5. Horseback riding

Horseback riding is one of the few sports that exercises the pelvic and adductor muscles. Staying balanced on the horse is a challenge especially when the horse is running faster and it activates your spinal muscles, core muscles (abdominal muscles), and gives you good muscle tone. If you work around the barn, you can add other back muscles into the equation, such as from lifting 50 pound feed bags. It improves cardiovascular health as well.

Working out your muscles is the key to developing and maintaining good posture. Did you know there is a way to actually engage your postural muscles while you work at your desk? With new technological advancements, you can sit at a chair that keeps your postural muscles toned eight hours a day. That means all the extra sports exercises you do will be the ‘icing on the cake’. Check out our chairs today!