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can bad posture affect breathing

Can Bad Posture Affect Breathing? – Complete Guide!

Can bad posture affect breathing? Really, can it??

You probably have thought about this at some point in time, right? Well, if you have not thought about it, it is not a problem at all. You will get to know whether or not if bad posture affects your breathing at the end of this article.

A couple of things can affect the way you breathe. Let’s take a look at them before we answer the question, can bad posture affect breathing?


The way you breathe affects your whole body. It helps to regulate vital functions like heart rate and blood pressure. Also, it can reinforce proper body mechanics thereby reducing stress on your body as you move.

Deep breathing; also known as abdominal or belly breathing involves inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, filling the lungs with air as the belly expands.

This type of breathing has many health benefits, like reducing stress, lowering blood pressure.

The benefits of deep breathing are widely known. However, the busy pace of life conjoined with a sedentary work environment has put many of us in a condition where we take only quick, shallow breaths.

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Effects of Poor Posture on the Skeletal and Muscular Systems

Over a period of time, the strength of our respiratory muscles gets weak. Furthermore, there is a creation of tension in the upper body that may alter our posture and undermine our health.

If you’re a shallow breather, you should know this:

The Effects of Shallow Breathing

Shallow breathing is the opposite of deep breathing or abdominal breathing. When you breathe shallow, you recruit your back up breathing muscles. This means involving the neck muscles and chest to inhale. Often, you over-inflate and stay hyperinflated in your ribcage. You can do this for short periods of time when stressed but you are not designed to be on alert at all times.

When you take shallow breaths, you over-breathe oxygen and breathe out too much carbon dioxide stressing our body and telling our nervous system to stay on red alert.

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Can bad posture cause abdominal pain?

In contrast, breathing in a calm pattern that activates the rest digest and recovery part of your nervous system requires you to lengthen your exhale and slow down the number of breaths you take a minute.

To prevent the negative long term effects of this “stress-like” state, you must try to prevent shallow breathing.

But this is where posture can cause you further problems. People with bad posture tend to have trouble establishing a good breathing pattern.

Diaphragmatic breathing is difficult for people with poor posture. Even their shallow breaths are inefficient because of the restrictions around the chest. The implications are really bad.

To get your posture right, you need to find ways to release these bad breathing muscles. These are the muscles that get short and tight from overuse.

Stress-related illnesses, sleep problems, respiratory problems, immune system weakening, and high blood pressure are all symptoms of long term shallow breathing

Deep Breathing

This is the proper way of breathing. A key player in deep breathing is the diaphragm. Let’s know a bit about the diaphragm.

The Diaphragm

This is the muscle of inspiration, it is dome-shaped and is comprised of fibrous tissue and muscle. It separates the thoracic region (chest) from the abdomen. It serves as the main muscle for respiration. Also, it is the only skeletal muscle that is essential for life.

The Diaphragm’s Function (In Breathing)

When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and draws into the abdominal cavity until it is flat while the rib muscles lift the ribs outward. At exhalation, the diaphragm gets to relax and returns to its dome shape, while the rib muscles return to its resting state.

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Poor posture may cause fatigue

When air leaves your body the thorax cavity decreases. During exercises, these muscles (abdominals, internal obliques, chest muscles) help pull the ribs to center and to squeeze air out of your body.

People with poor posture and breathing techniques can fatigue the respiratory muscles with exercise, especially high-intensity movements.

Can Bad Posture Affect Breathing?

How Posture Affects Breathing

Try to slump and slouch (only if it is pain-free). Now in this position try and breathe in.

How do you feel?

Can you fully engage your belly in breathing?

There is a poor alignment in that slumped position. This means your diaphragm can not descend easily. This makes it hard to activate the posterior half of your diaphragm that attaches to your lower ribs and spine. Your body will desire to get air in still so it can replenish your oxygen stores.

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Poor posture side effects

Your body has to recruit its back up breathing muscles around its neck and chest to help inhale. This causes an expanding of the rib cage to get air traveling down into the lungs.

The neck muscles are not very efficient. They are not designed to be used for the 17,000 breaths we take on average each day. They get tired, fatigued and we create muscle trigger points that can generate headaches, jaw and neck pain.

Research into breathing patterns and emotions has also shown that when you adopt a slumped posture/breathing pattern you experience sadness. The powerful finding in this research is if you change your posture and breathing pattern you can change your emotion.

What if the world all knew how to breathe in a joy breathing pattern? What impact would that have on our conversations and relationships with others?

Do you slouch?

Be honest right now.

Do you slouch?

Take a look at how you stand in a mirror and be critical – the importance to your health is at stake.

Stand still, and ask a friend (one you’re sure will be direct) to evaluate your posture. You can also ask a physiotherapist or other health professional to review your posture and give you an analysis of the muscles that are tight and weak.

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3 Sitting positions for good posture

If the muscles in your upper back, neck, and chest are so stiffened from slouching that they won’t budge, you’ve got work to do. And in some cases, the damage is irreversible. But don’t let that dissuade you. There’s plenty you can do to improve your posture. And with each incremental improvement, you’ll notice a change in the rest of your body.

Remember that small changes make a big impact.

Is poor posture related to shortness of breath?

Yes, it is.

One of the main reasons it does this is by limiting your ability to access your diaphragm and deep breathing. Your brain can’t get the oxygen it requires and you experience a sensation of ‘air hunger’ so it will recruit your back up breathing muscles that we have highlighted above. These need to work more frequently to get the needed oxygen intake which makes you breathe fast and shallow.

Over a period of time that faster breathing expels too much carbon dioxide from your blood and alters your blood chemistry. The receptors in your arteries then set a new threshold of carbon dioxide and when you reach it will stimulate you to breathe faster then you may actually be required.

The shortness of breath sensation comes when your body requires oxygen or you feel suffocation. The response has been triggered indicating an increase in carbon dioxide levels. It is necessary to work with your breathing physiotherapist to rule out other reasons for shortness of breath.

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Poor posture effects on the stomach pain

When there is an altercation in your breathing pattern, the easiest forms of exercise can seem difficult. This happens to people with bad posture. They can not get sufficient intake of air or stay hyperinflated and they struggle to complete tasks that the average person has no difficulties with.

Learning to breathe in a way that is right for the task in front of you can reduce that feeling of shortness of breath. Breathing 360 degrees into the belly and back engaging the diaphragm with good posture can help with reducing shortness of breath long term.

Your Posture Influences Everything

Posture affects our health and how well we perform in all areas of life. For example, people with rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and necks that force their gaze towards the floor, generally do less well at interviews, are perceived as less attractive, and have a gloomier outlook on life.

Your phone is a big part of the problem. And let’s not forget about the time we spend at desks in school and work. Kids spend years hunched over books and computers at a desk. We’re only starting to understand the implications of the “always on” culture that the smartphone has introduced to society.

Constantly being bombarded by messages and social media activates our stress response dumping cortisol and adrenaline in our blood, mobilising our body into action. No wonder it is hard to switch the brain off and sleep at the end of the day after being on social media or working at a computer.

Younger populations are the most affected as millennials live their lives through their devices but older enthusiastic phone adopters also feel the effects.

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How to keep a straight posture

But the way we physically use phones isn’t the only influence on our posture. Yes, the hunched position we adopt for scanning our Instagram feed creates tension in the postural muscles. But indirect causes such as stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression contribute too.

Depressed, stressed people do not generally walk with confidence or sit with straight backs and open shoulders. Overuse of phones can also lead to sleep disturbances, which has the chain reaction effect of lowering our immune system, impacting our posture, and increasing levels of stress and depression.

Our posture affects our mood and emotions, which affects our health, which changes our breathing pattern, which changes our posture again. And so the cycle continues.

The good news is by changing your posture you can help break the cycle, shifting your emotions, making it easier to access your optimal breathing muscle, the diaphragm.

Reinforcing proper breathing patterns

A slow, steady breathing pattern enhances core stability, helps improve tolerance to high-intensity exercise, and reduces the risk of muscle fatigue and injury. Taking balanced, equal breaths should be your goal.

A good way to practice balanced breathing is to take a deep inhale, count to four, and then release a deep exhale to the same count.

If you’re unsure of whether you’re a shallow breather, place your palm against your abdomen beneath your rib cage and exhale. Take a deep breath and follow the movement of your hand. If your hand moves as your abdomen expands, you’re breathing correctly.

If your hand only moves slightly but your shoulders elevate, you may want to consider practicing breathing exercises to strengthen your muscles and reinforce proper breathing patterns.

Performing deep breathing exercises along with general fitness training can increase the strength of the respiratory muscles. Breathing techniques such as roll breathing can also be used to develop full use of the lungs while controlling the rhythm of respiration.

If you have a neuromuscular disorder, lung disease, or injuries from trauma, you may want to purchase a breathing exercise machine to increase lung volume and encourage deep breathing.

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