Posture has been a topic of discussion for hundreds of years. How many of us remember our parents telling us, “stand up straight”, “get your elbows off the table”, or “don’t look down at your feet”? Plato and Aristotle even considered standing on two feet to signify the divinity and intelligence of humans (Gregoric, 2005). Now, it’s 2021 and we’re still talking about posture!
Going back to the 16th century, as the military began to develop, good posture came to signify a disciplined soldier who can handle a weapon. Quickly, it became a staple of civilian life and gained the association of good health and virtue while bad posture became associated with illness and poor morals. This split largely stemmed from the upper class wanting to differentiate themselves from the common labor workers.
By the late 18th century, posture etiquette began to relax. Stiff clothes that made it difficult to slouch (such as corsets and jackets) evolved into loose flapper dresses and the rigid furniture that discouraged sitting back evolved into soft spring sofas. These ‘outdated’ clothes and furniture were seen as an inability to relax or enjoy oneself as leisure culture began to grow.
As World War I neared in the 20th century, the focus on a “physically fit” nation grew and physical education programs became integrated into schools elementary though college where posture was closely monitored.
Still, bad posture was considered to indicate poor morality and decay, ultimately based on racist ideology. B. G. Jeffries, an American eugenist, was even quoted saying, “perfect posture is the antithesis of illness and moral decay”.
Today, the increasing rise of material consumerism and leisure culture, along with technology use, has made slouching much more prevalent. There are even several pictures of former President Barack Obama relaxing in a chair with his feet up on the table in the Oval Office!
We love good posture because a healthy spine allows you to have a better quality of life for longer (and hopefully with less pain). Of course we love to relax, but be conscientious of how much time you spend hunched over a computer.