The posture-hormone connection
“Stand up tall.”
Turns out, there was more to your mother’s endless nagging than her seemingly aesthetically-driven demands for you to improve your posture.
More and more science is showing there’s a real physiological connection between your posture and your hormone profile, specifically the hormones that come from your reproductive system (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and your adrenal glands (cortisol and adrenaline).
Well, a study from Harvard University found significant link between posture and all of the above hormones. Here’s a link to the 2012 study ().
During the study, participants had their baseline hormone levels tested. Then they were divided into two groups.
One group chilled out in a lounge area, while the second group was taken into a room and told to work on their “power pose.” A power pose is a position where you stand up tall with your hands on your hips and keep a level head, almost like you’re trying to look like Superman or Superwoman. They were asked to maintain a power pose position for two minutes.
After this, both groups were brought back together to participate in gambling games. Those who were part of the power pose group showed more risk-taking tendencies and were more confident in their gambling than those who sat relaxing in the lounge (risk taking and confidence are associated with higher levels of testosterone).
Upon re-testing the participants’ hormone levels, sure enough the power posers were found to have experienced elevated levels in testosterone, as well as decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk. The group who didn’t power pose experienced the exact opposite.
This study is not alone. Since then, 50 other studies have been done on the topic and have continued to find similar conclusions: Posture affects hormone levels. Some research has even gone so far as to suggest power posing, and posture in general, can help people who suffer from depression.
Whether you believe posture can help improve depression or not, at the very least, we can probably all agree the idea of power posing does make some common sense. Body language immediately tells you something about a person. Arms crossed, head down doesn’t exactly exemplify confidence or fearlessness, meanwhile those who stand up tall with their shoulders back seem more ready to tackle the world.
So maybe, just maybe it’s time to listen to your mother and stop slouching, stand up tall, get your shoulders back and get that chin of yours up and ready to strike a pose