Exercise and Postural Distortions

Post by Natalie McClure, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor at Nourish Northwest

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Yesterday was a beautiful day for a run, so I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement. Portland has been a mix of extreme heat and intense sun this summer, but yesterday’s high of 82 allowed a beautiful mid-day temperature of 75 and I could think of nothing better than getting outside and jogging along the Willamette river to get my workout of the day in. 

So, I’m running. And I’m feeling good. Then, these two dudes pass me (which happens frequently…I’m not the fastest runner of the bunch!) and I notice their postures as they speed by. Their shoulders are rounded and they both look hunched over as they jog along. I think, well, there’s a common postural distortion for you. What is a postural distortion you ask? Postural distortions happen when we repeat an undesirable movement or static position again and again, that leads to muscle imbalances and postural stress. For example:  Most people lead sedentary lifestyles. We start our day sitting in our cars;  then move to our desk sitting all day in front of a computer;  head home in our cars, sitting more during a long rush hour; and then finish the day out on the couch with our favorite television program. This constant seated routine can cause muscle imbalances, which leads to a compromised posture. When your posture is compromised, movement in both daily life and in exercise can lead to injury, because your body isn’t in optimal alignment.  Common postural distortions include: “rounding” and elevation of the shoulders; tightening of the chest muscles as back muscles weaken; protrusion of the head; and the tightening of the hips, as the glutes (butt muscles) become weak.


Maintaining this forward head, rounded shoulders kind of posture, inhibits your ability to achieve maximal benefits in exercise. Why? Because the systems of our body–the nervous system, the skeletal system, and the muscular system (also known as the kinetic chain)–work together, not independently, to produce movement. If one component of the kinetic chain is not working properly (i.e. a person experiences a postural distortion) “it will affect all other systems and ultimately affect movement.”* So, if you’re running with this postural distortion, you won’t be able to run as fast, long, or as comfortably as you would if your body was in proper alignment. I wouldn’t be surprised if you experience some injuries along the way, as well.


So how do you make sure that your body is in proper alignment? You strength train, you work on your core, and you stretch! Stay tuned for my next blog post for exercises and different types of stretching you can do to maintain proper muscle balance and ensure that when you are exercising, you are getting maximum benefits! 

*NASM Optimum Performance Training (for the health and fitness professional) P. 24


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