Breathing – you do it without even thinking about it. You might not focus on breathing all that often – especially, when sitting at your desk with deadlines to meet – but it's one of your body's most important reflexes. Involuntary respiration, along with your heartbeat, keeps you alive. Although you don't have to remember to breathe to stay alive, you do need to remember to sit up straight to facilitate high-quality breathing.
The Mechanics of Breathing: How Poor Posture Reduces Lung Capacity
Muscles located all around your chest cavity, surrounding the rib cage and lungs, contract to inhale and exhale air. The primary muscle used to breathe is the diaphragm, located at the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm contracts, creating space for the lungs to inhale and relaxes, prompting lungs to exhale. When slouched (rounded shoulders and forward head posture), the diaphragm cannot function properly. As a result, smaller muscles in the chest cavity are forced to take over the breathing function. Poor posture also compresses the chest cavity, further restricting lung expansion. This results in shallow breathing and an increased respiratory rate.
What Does Breathing Do Besides Keep You Alive?
If you, like many, slouch through most of the workday without suffocating, you might be wondering why proper posture and lung capacity matters. Well, the quality of each breath and your average respiratory rate impact your body in ways you might not realize. It turns out, respiratory rate can affect health.
An increased respiratory rate is normal during strenuous physical activity, but should remain relatively low while in a seated position. A high respiratory rate (on average, adults take about 12 to 18 breaths per minute) is associated with high blood pressure and anxiety. The poor posture that causes back, neck and shoulder pain also increases your respiratory rate limiting lung capacity, your ability to breathe deeply and the amount of vital oxygen delivered to the rest of your body's organs.
Four Favors You Can Do for Your Lungs Right Now
- Give Lungs Room to Breathe - Improve seated posture by arranging your workspace to accommodate proper posture. Be sure to sit with your chin tucked, shoulders down and back and with your feet flat on the floor.
- Practice Deep Breathing - Schedule five to ten minutes each day to practice deep breathing. Place your hand on your abdomen and feel the movement as your diaphragm pushes your stomach outward while you breathe in deeply through your nose. Then use your stomach muscles to exhale forcefully through your mouth.
- Reduce Muscle Tension- Relaxing the muscles in your shoulders, chest and upper back will prevent your chest cavity from constricting lung capacity. Start with gentle shoulder rolls and slow neck tilts (forward and to either side).
- Use the Posture Keeper– A simple, drug-free way to keep you upright, Posture Keeper prevents you from slouching the entire time you’re sitting at your desk. This opens up your airways and enables your lungs to function at optimum levels while you work.
By practicing proper posture, especially with the aid of Posture Keeper, you automatically increase the capacity of your lungs, allowing them to breathe more easily. The next time, your office is quiet, take a deep breath and listen carefully. If your lungs don't thank you for sitting up straight, your newly improved health definitely will.