Sit up straight

Chronicle Staff

Head of Foreign Language Javier Zaragoza doesn’t want to seem “annoying and picky” when he tells his students to sit up straight.

“I am constantly correcting bad posture,” he said.

It is hard to call what he does nagging because he has his reasons.

“Thinking and circulation of the blood is better when you are sitting up straight,” he said.
In fact, many students find this to be true.

“Zaragoza always corrects my posture in class,” Vanessa Zackler ’08 said. “But in all honesty, when I am sitting up straight I probably concentrate more because I am not lounging.”

“I think a lot of people do it because it is a comfort thing,” Zaragoza said. “It is an automatic habit compared to a controlled reaction.”

Although Zaragoza wants his students to feel comfortable around him, he ultimately believes slouching and bad posture is “a sign of disrespect.”

Overshadowing these underlying reasons for why he corrects bad posture are the health aspects.
Beverly Hills chiropractor Dr. Theodoros Kousoulis makes a living correcting and helping people with their back problems. He says 80 percent of people suffer from back problems during at least one part of their life.

“Slouching over makes it so you have lower oxygen content in your body, which causes higher pH levels, and thus higher acidity levels in your body,” he said. “This ends up causing many more diseases down the road. Fundamentally, it is easy to see that rounding over your shoulders and leaning your head forward would cause a decrease in your ability to take a nice breath and the diaphragm will end up having less power.

“It is easy to see why teenagers slouch,” he said.

“The main contributors are emotional and physical trauma, accidents and repetitive stress disorders,” Kousoulis said. “Obviously teens are susceptible because of their high emotional and stress levels.”
In fact, not only are teens very vulnerable to developing bad posture, but Kousoulis and Zaragoza have both seen an increase in bad posture among teens over the years.

“It has a lot to do with what teens do recreationally nowadays,” Kousoulis said. “Students are constantly hunching over at their computers, at their desks or even while playing video games.”
“Over the years it seems to have gotten worse,” Zaragoza said.

The cliché phrase “what one will do for fashion” is another component of bad posture.

 “The model pose used to be of a model merely standing perfectly straight,” Kousoulis said. “Now, you often see the slight hunch of the back with the arm on the waist. It’s not that people are saying ‘oh, I want to slouch like them’ but when you see beautiful women looking cool doing something, you subconsciously want to emulate it.”

“Sometimes I notice that the models in magazine ads are slouching,” Jenna Marine ’08 said.
High heels also contribute to poor posture.

“If someone wears high heels for more than three hours a week they are in serious risk of back problems,” Kousoulis said.

Kousoulis also believes that posture is a result of one’s overall mood.

“If someone is always being put down, their whole posture will reflect the way they feel,” he said.
Whether it is a sacrifice for style, a result of the stress of being a teenager, or an emotional response to one’s overall attitude, a perceptible increase in bad posture among teens has been noticed.

“We all do it, but being aware and reminded of it by the people around you really makes a difference,” Zaragoza said.

In fact, Havi Mirell ’08 didn’t notice her posture was getting progressively worse until she was told.
“The trainer, Milo [Sini] tells me to stop slouching,” Mirell said. “But it doesn’t take him just telling me once, I need to hear it all the time, but now I am actually working on it because my back was actually starting to hurt.” 

Noticing one’s body and when it is in pain is the first step, Kousoulis said, although the best step to avoiding back problems in one’s future is preventing it before it happens.

“Especially in stressful environments, people are moving so fast and don’t have time to stop and notice and react to their body,” Kousoulis said.

And even if teens don’t think it’s a problem yet and put off dealing and rectifying their posture, “it only becomes worse with age,” Kousoulis said.

And, as Mirell has realized, no teenager “wants to start looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame.”