Why do people have bad posture?

When you look around, it’s easy to notice that so many people have bad posture. I don’t have great posture either and it’s something that has fascinated me. Let me show you what I’ve found so far inside this article.

“One cannot help noticing that practically all malnourished children have atrocious postures.”
– Dr Alfred Meyers, 1922, California State Journal of Medicine

When getting started with coaching, I ask my clients what their main goal is. And fixing bad posture is something that consistently tops the list.

Through the programs I co-created with my business partners Marco Walker-Ng and Shane Duquette, we’ve had tons of success stories of postural improvements over the past 11 years, mainly as a natural by-product of improving their diet and lifting weights with good exercise selection.

But what is it that truly fixes posture?

Is it the nutrition?

Is it the workouts?

Is it something else?

Doctor: Malnutrition And Bad Posture

I was reading this old published article from a hundred years ago from the doctor I quoted at the beginning.

He recalls that every single underweight child that was admitted to the Children’s Nutritional clinic in California had one OR more of these postural problems:

  • Rounded shoulders with forward head (nerd neck)
  • Exaggerated lumbar spine with protruding gut
  • Scoliosis
  • Fallen arches / flat feet
  • Rickets (flaring ribs, Harrison’s groove)
  • Bowlegs or knock knees

This wasn’t just an appearance problem. The doctor said someone with rounded shoulders would have trouble getting in a deep breath, which would affect circulation. Knock-knees would affect tendons, which would affect how someone moves—leading to chronic pain. Not only that, but many of those with postural problems had kidney problems and couldn’t handle dietary fats very well.

Aside from nutrition, he mentioned other factors like restrictive clothing and tight shoes (and heels) that would disrupt foot shape, leading to postural problems. Then there’s the problem of sitting too much… or standing still too much.

The solution from the hospital?

An improved diet, walking more and sleeping more. (The rationale was more time spent sleeping was more time for the body to recover and less time spent in poor posture.)

It’s a fascinating glimpse into history because I think a lot of what they recommend still holds true today.

A lot more has come to light about posture, including how cardiovascular health plays a role.

Bloodflow And Spinal Health

Take a look at this graphic from this paper Intervertebral disc regeneration: do nutrients lead the way? (2014)

This is a disc in your spine. When blood flow slows down to the discs in your back, the discs don’t get the supply of nutrients they need—and you get spinal degeneration.

This isn’t just humans either.

If you feed sheep, goats, or cows a diet that’s low in copper—a mineral necessary for heart and bone health—they get swayback posture (2012) just like us humans get swayback.

These animals aren’t slouching because they’re unruly teenagers who spend all day playing Fortnite.

They’re slouching because they’re malnourished.

Proper nutrition leads to cardiovascular health and good bone density— and that’s a huge part of proper posture.

Bone Density & Posture

There are obviously other factors aside from food. Sunshine plays a huge role in cardiovascular health, and we know that more sunshine solves rickets (a lack of vitamin D.) There are many historical examples of doctors curing rickets with unheated cod liver oil—a great source of vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin D.

Both retinol and vitamin D play a huge role in bone density. Anything that helps to improve bone density ought to help with posture.

According to this 2016 study:

These minerals matter a lot in bone density. I’ve put some good whole-food sources in brackets.

  • copper (grass-fed beef liver, wild seafood, raw honey, cocao)
  • selenium (wild seafood, brazil nuts, tuna)
  • calcium (dairy, sardines, raw orange juice)
  • magnesium (raw honey, wild seafood, cocao, dead sea salt baths)
  • boron (raisins, prunes, avocado)
  • zinc (meat, seafood, oysters)
  • manganese (pineapple, almonds, peanuts, sprouted brown rice, sourdough whole grain bread)
  • silicon (oats, beer, seafood, bananas, rice, beans, 2006)
  • iron (grass-fed beef liver, red meat)

Sitting hunched over a desk for 12 hours a day in a desk chair isn’t going to help either.

The point is, is that if you want to get stronger AND get better posture—don’t shoot yourself in the foot with nutrition like I did.

Many years back, I was trying to go all-in to bulk and build muscle. I was adding in all these heavily processed whey protein powders, maltodextrin carb shakes, and eating tons of kids cereal with pasteurized milk for easy (delicious) calories.

In the meantime, my body was being robbed of precious nutrients needed to stay healthy (blood generation, vein health, bone health, etc.), causing my posture to crumble.

So if you want to get better posture, consider these ideas:

How to improve your posture (in progress)

  • Eat a nourishing diet made out of mostly whole foods. I would focus on foods that help most with bone density and heart health. (These are the kinds of foods I cover in our programs as they also help with muscle gain and reducing stubborn fat.)
  • Lift weights to improve bone density and muscle strength. Use exercises that can help teach you to rewire your natural posture. My coach and business partner Marco introduced me to these—the conventional barbell deadlift, farmer carries (with pristine form), and dead bugs to learn how to activate the front core.
  • Get daily sunshine. Sunshine improves vascular tone (blood flow) and reduces inflammation—sparing the body’s magnesium and vitamin D (even in the winter). In the summer, sunshine will help generate more vitamin D.
  • Walk more. For cardio, don’t spend even more time sitting by using a bike—get outside, get tall and go for a stroll.
  • Evaluate your clothing. I’ve heard stories of people getting back pain from wearing belts on their pants. Some people are wearing too-cushy of shoes, making their ankles cave in because the foundation is unstable. Some people are wearing too narrow of shoes because they think they look better, etc. It definitely helps to be as barefoot as possible.
  • Take a close look at your supplements. Many popular supplements disrupt the balance in the body. They help in the short term but make things worse in the future. Some supplements can be useful for temporary doses for fighting a cold… but be careful with chronic use of synthetic zinc/vitamin C/iron (copper antagonist), synthetic vitamin D (plays a role with vitamin A, E, K2 and more), etc.
  • Take a close look at your medication. Many drugs have awful side effects, like the NSAIDs I was prescribed as a teen when I used to have tendonitis. Statins have also been found to affect bone health, with links to osteoporosis.

It’s worth it to improve your posture. You look better, more confident, and to have it—means you’ve got good health. And that’s pretty attractive.

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