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The relationship between posture, spatial awareness and health

Photo: The relationship between posture, spatial awareness and health
Scientists have recently revealed important insights about posture and spatial awareness. These new discoveries add to our collective understanding of how posture can influence human health.

Neuroscience researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have recently discovered brain cells that appear to have a direct influence on posture.  They observed laboratory animals’ brains as the animals moved through various postures. One of their findings: Familiar postures generated less brain activity than unfamiliar ones did. For example, when the animals were walking on all four legs as usual, their neurons did not tend to fire at the same rate as they did when they raised themselves on two legs to investigate something of interest.
The researchers were able to determine that specific brain cells are particularly responsive to atypical postures. These discoveries impact our understanding of the relationship between the brain and spatial awareness.

This research builds on previous medical observations demonstrating that damage to the parietal cortex resulted in patients losing their sense of where, exactly, their limbs and other body parts were located in space. The new discoveries corroborate the importance of the neurons in the brain – in particular, those located in the posterior parietal cortex and the frontal motor cortex — being responsive to the body’s varied postures. It appears this specific group of neurons is responsible for sending signals the brain utilises for creating spatial awareness of the body’s location in space.

This information may prove to be beneficial to healthcare providers who wish to help stroke victims or other patients who have suffered damage to these brain regions.

Mary Bond, author of a book called The New Rules of Posture, believes that spatial perception is an integral part of healthy posture. It appears likely that there is also a relationship between poor posture and poor spatial perception.

Unfortunately, brain damage isn’t the only condition that can adversely affect spatial awareness. Poor posture itself can change a person’s perception of his center of gravity, adversely influencing his sense of where his body is in space. This can result in problems with gait and also problems with falling. Preliminary research has revealed a correlation between poor posture and unnecessary falls in the elderly.

Poor posture also puts you at risk of other health problems including incontinence, constipation, heartburn and impaired digestion, according to experts at Harvard Health Publishing.

What Are the Benchmarks for Good Posture?

According to a workplace health & safety article on Training.com.au, a leading Australian academic portal, “Good posture means that your back should be straight, elbows should be bent at 90° and your hips/legs should be at 90-120°.”

The author advises students and workers to maintain good posture to avoid strain and injury.

There is ample scientific documentation available to back this advice. Healthcare providers have long been aware that poor posture resulting from computer use can cause muscle and joint problems.

Poor posture can also contribute to stress, while upright posture can contribute to better mood and more resilience.

Clearly, it’s worth cultivating good posture. As healthcare providers, we can help our patients by educating them about the benefits that correct posture can reward them with.

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