Monday, 17 January 2011

How better posture improves concentration

What your posture has to do with your ability to concentrate may not be immediately obvious, but if you have a sedentary job, you may want to consider how you sit when you work.

You may also want to think about sitting on an exercise ball, or add a wobble cushion to your chair, while you work. Experts think that the micro-movements your body needs to make to adjust will do more than just improve your core muscles and posture, it can also make you concentrate better.


When you sit on an exercise ball, you are constantly making tiny, subconscious physical movements to maintain your balance. “Movement awakens and activates many of our mental capacities,” says neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, who has studied the relationship between movement and learning. “Movement integrates and anchors new information and experience into our neural networks.”

It’s this subconscious mental activity that lies at the core of the science behind the benefit of the exercise balls, which has seen some schools in America replace their hard chairs with them. “The tiny movements kids make while balancing stimulates their brains and helps them focus,” says Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard University professor and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Apparently some children with attention disorders have a ‘sleepy cortex’, and exercise combats that mental disengagement. “Just by using their core muscles more, they’re flipping (their cortex) on,” says Ratey. “This causes the prefrontal cortex to get turned on, which does a lot of things, including inhibiting impulses.”

So if you thought that sitting in front of a desk for any length of time just caused poor breathing patterns, restricted circulation, muscular strain and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) – think again. Swapping your chair for a posture ball, or sitting on a wobble cushion, could make all the difference to your concentration levels as well as your aching back.

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