Is Running Giving You Bad Posture?

By Dr. Philip Cordova

May 8, 2015

Are you running to help your bad posture? Being a chiropractor, I regularly see patients dealing with neck and back pain that is directly related to poor posture. Since most of our patients sit at computers all day, text on their phones, and commute long distances, it’s no wonder they find themselves in a near-permanent hunched over position.

After attempting to “fix” their bad posture by purchasing pillows, supports, and braces, they finally come to the conclusion that they need to exercise in order to make a change. However, not all exercise will help you change your posture, some may actually make it worse. I find that many patients haven’t given any thought to specific exercises to help their posture, rather saying “I started exercising, thinking that would help my bad posture.”

running bad posture

If you enjoy running, isn’t that good enough?

It’s important to find an exercise that you enjoy doing, since consistency with your chosen program will make the biggest difference in affecting a lasting change. However, I think that cycling could be one of the more damaging exercises to do, especially if you already have poor posture. If you’re worried about your posture, you’ll either need to find a different exercise or do more back exercises to counteract spending even more time hunched over.

Not every exercise is created equally and different muscles are required to do each one. When you see someone that is fit, has great muscles, and is flexible, they have performed a variety of exercises over a long period of time to get to that point. Just doing one type of exercise will not accomplish that goal. 

For example, cycling (including engaging in a “spin” class), puts you in a hunched over position. By itself, this isn’t a problem. Combine that with the forty hours per week you sit at a computer and any other activity you do in that same position, and you’re only going to make things worse. The variety of movements would make a big difference here.

Does running help your posture?

Running could be considered neutral, neither helping nor hurting your posture. In many cases, however, I find that the non-competitive runner doesn’t give much thought to running style or technique. I see runners holding their arms up near their chest, essentially running in a hunched over posture.

For some, this position is about modesty, while others just aren’t sure what to do with their arms. Running hunched over can make your bad posture worse, while decreasing your lung capacity and making running harder to do.

If you want better posture, you’ll need to spend time cross-training or, at a minimum, spend time engaging your upper, mid, and low back to strengthen your postural muscles. Just doing sit-ups could potentially make things worse, since this exercise is performed hunching over and tightening front muscles while elongating back muscles.

Running won’t fix bad posture — and it may make it worse

Running won’t fix your bad posture, and could possibly make things worse if you’re not consciously making an attempt to remain upright during your runs. Regardless, consider adding weights, working some additional muscles, and focusing on improving your postural strength.

Our patients that are able to continue to run for long periods of time take advantage of a chiropractic care plan and even add in spinal decompression therapy. Being evaluated for a leg length discrepancy can also go a long way in making sure your running doesn’t make your posture and your back pain worse. 

Exercise to build muscle tone and decrease stress is always a good idea, but running won’t improve your posture. Adding in specific posture exercises to make the kind of change you’re looking for is the only answer. 

Dr. Philip Cordova

About the author

Dr. Philip Cordova is a chiropractor in Houston, Texas. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and decided to become a chiropractor after hurting his back as a teenager and getting help from chiropractic care. He is speaker on health & posture. Click Here To Read His Full Bio

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