Your mother was right, maintaining good posture is important for back health. Sitting with correct posture puts the least amount of stress on muscles and ligaments, helping to avoid back and neck pain. However, a recent study has shown that slouching may have some benefits, specifically on our cognitive abilities.
The new study, led by Japanese researchers, demonstrated that a relaxed posture might improve focus and productivity during activities that require mental effort. The researchers studied a group of 28 fourth graders fitted with electrodes that tracked their core muscle activities. The researchers presented the children with simple arithmetic problems, followed by more challenging ones, and asked to solve the equations in their heads.
The study found that the children relaxed their core muscles when they were working on the math problems, and that their muscles were the most relaxed as they worked on the more challenging equations. The children performed equally well on both tasks, while sitting in this casual, slouched position.
The researchers deduced from these results that slouching releases cognitive abilities that are not available when focusing on maintaining correct posture. However, the results are only suggestive, as Marjorie Wallcott, a neuroscientist at the University of Oregon explains, because,
“To get a clearer picture of what effect posture has, researchers would have to test each child’s math skills without having them pay particular attention to posture and then test them again after asking them to focus on sitting up.”
The study also does not demonstrate any physical benefits of slouching. Poor posture may help cognitive functions, but it is still correlated with a variety of health issues, including fatigue, abnormal spine alignment, chronic pain, and digestive problems. Whether sitting, standing or moving, it is always best practice to keep each part of the body in alignment with the neighboring parts to insure all parts balanced and supported.
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