Trending Topics
Posture article.jpg

Photo/Annette Verpillot/PosturePro

The role posture plays in officer strength, stress resiliency, blood pressure and shooting accuracy

Your posture can mean the difference between optimized performance and physical resilience or constantly battling aches, pains and stress

Sponsored by

You’re probably thinking, “Not another article reminding me to sit up straight.”

Actually, this one’s about something different.

This article is about the role your brain, eyes, feet and overall neurology play in your posture and how this can potentially alter your energy expenditure at rest, blood pressure, hormones, strength and handgun shooting accuracy.

It’s easy to overlook something seemingly insignificant as posture, but it’s more important than you think. It can be the difference between feeling strong and resilient or constantly battling aches, pains and stress.

This article will introduce you to the cutting-edge work of global experts Dr. Heidi Haavik and Annette Verpillot and show you the fascinating impacts posture can have on your health and, potentially, static shooting accuracy.

Let’s get started with a question.

What is posture?

According to TED Talk SME and PosturePro founder Annette Verpillot posture is “how you fight gravity.”

At first glance, posture might seem a trivial consideration for law enforcement. However, understanding the impact proper and improper posture can have on health and well-being is crucial.

A recent study found that 67% of federal highway officers have chronic low back pain. [1] Earlier research found that 55% of officers developed chronic or recurring low back pain after joining the force. [2]

A few years back, a meta-analysis published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” looked at 13 studies and found that sitting more than 8 hours per day was associated with an increased risk of adverse health events. [3] Research shows you can attenuate this with 60-75 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily activity. [4]

Sitting for long periods can create imbalances between the hip flexors and extensors, and muscles throughout the lower back. Altered pelvic alignment can increase the stress on the ligaments of the lower back, especially during lifting movements. These imbalances can also lead to changes in gait patterns, attenuating hamstring tightness that can pull the pelvis posteriorly and lead to spinal alignment changes, including kyphosis and forward head posture.

When our posture becomes altered or we have a spinal misalignment, what signal does this send to the brain?

Houston…..we have a problem

Our brain plays a key role in regulating posture, and maintaining good posture positively affects our brain’s ability to function optimally.

When vertebrae are out of place or there are spinal misalignments, our brains must pay more attention to this, potentially at the cost of other priorities.

Dr. Heidi Haavik, a leading global expert on this topic, has uncovered the link between brain neuroplasticity and spinal alignment, finding that a misalignment in the spine can impact the transmission of information to your brain and vice versa.

In a 2016 study, Dr. Haavik and her team found that treating dysfunctional joints can change the processing of sensory information in the brain’s CEO, the prefrontal cortex. [5,6] In a more recent study, Dr. Haavik and her team found that a single spinal adjustment improved reaction time, increased muscle force, decreased fatigue and increased grip strength. [6]

In other words, realigning the spine does more than improve your posture; it positively impacts your nervous system.

Posture article.jpg

All photos by Annette Verpillot/PosturePro

Posture, hormones, blood pressure and flow

Posture can directly influence various processes within our bodies, including blood flow, hormones and our ability to breathe properly. When we maintain proper alignment, our blood flows smoothly, potentially reducing the strain on our cardiac system and improving oxygenation throughout our system.

Poor posture makes it harder to get a good, deep breath. When your diaphragm cannot fully expand, “it can lead to chronic shallow breathing, detrimental to a person’s lung function and overall health.” Over time, good posture can improve lung capacity by as much as 30%. [7]

Amy Cuddy, researcher, Harvard leadership professor and author of the book “Presence,” looked at the role of posture in hormone production. She expressed that “adopting expansive postures would cause testosterone to rise and cortisol to fall, whereas adopting contractive postures would cause testosterone to fall and cortisol to rise. [8]

An earlier paper from “Human Physiology” had similar findings, concluding that different postures can impact the endocrine system. [1] Erik Peper and his San Francisco State University team found that “chronic stress, such as repeated threat perceptions, are associated with poor posture.” [9]

Good posture is like having a solid framework for a house; it enables the body to be strong, stable and resilient under challenging circumstances.

Now that we understand the undeniable impact of posture on physiological factors, let’s explore the role our neurology plays in posture and vice versa.

The eyes have it

It has been said that the eyes are the windows to our brains. A recent paper titled Neuroscience in the blink of an eye validated this in their findings, stating that “the retina is an extension of the brain that resides in the eye.” [10] Research from the “American Journal of Ophthalmology” found that, “fifty percent of all nerve fibers are directly or indirectly related to the retina. When our eyes are open, the vision system occupies two-thirds of all electrical activity in the brain.” [11]

The eyes are so important that more neurons may be dedicated to vision than all four other senses combined.

Your eyes constantly communicate with your brain, providing feedback about your surroundings, equilibrium and body control. Consider what happens when one eye is off. What happens to your cervical and spinal alignment? Does your head start to rotate or tilt over time? Can this then alter your spinal alignment?

Below shows Annette Verpillot retraining officer eye convergence.

Posture 3.jpg

Eye exercises can significantly impact posture and body alignment. Research from the University of Paris saw improvements in posture and forward/backward standing body sway when they improved convergence and convergence in subjects. [12] Other studies have found eye exercises calm the amygdala [13] and impact dopamine levels. [14]

Performing five minutes of vertical and horizontal eye movements before breakfast and dinner and diaphragmatic breathing for 12 weeks dramatically improved migraine symptoms. The research team concluded that “performing eye movement exercises on a regular basis stimulates or potentiates all parts of the brain that are important in the experience of pain.” [15]

Below demonstrates eye convergence test before and after PosturePro intervention.

Posture 1.jpg

Sensory receptors on the bottom of your feet and postural adjustments

Research dating back to the 1800s discovered that “occlusion of the eyes revealed foot sensory disorders” and that “postural oscillations of the subject depended on sensations of the muscles, of the sole of the feet, and of visual input.” [16]

In their 2022 paper, researchers Maria Pia Bucci and Philippe Villeneuve expressed that “the reliefs used in posture insoles are likely to modify postural control, eye movement, and cortical activity.” [16] A separate study found when those insoles were combined with low biomechanical frequency, the result was improved body posture. [17]

Below demonstrates foot pressure mapping and weight distribution measurement and post-PosturePro officer MILO testing while standing on Therapeutic Frequency Insoles.

Posture 5.jpg
Posture 4.jpg

Cranial nerve 10: The vagus nerve

The vagus nerve connects the brain to various body organs, helping regulate critical functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and stress response. This nerve also impacts postural control.

Enhancing vagal tone improves the vagus nerve’s function, leading to stronger stress resilience and better postural control.

Practices such as deep breathing exercises, meditation and certain types of biofeedback activate the vagus nerve, promoting relaxation and emotional resilience. In his excellent book, Accessing The Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve, Stanley Rosenberg uses eye movements with simple exercises to calm the nervous system, release the muscles about the neck and reduce tension in the cervical vertebrae.

Tying it all together with PosturePro

Created by international SME and physiotherapist Annette Verpillot, Posturepro recalibrates your posture through nervous system intervention. In other words, it works on reconnecting the brain-body connection.

We have been working closely with Annette Verpillot and her team at PosturePro to implement these incredible methods into our training with law enforcement, the military, marksmen and athletics over the past few years.

By targeting the eyes, feet and jaw through PosturePro’s Postural Recalibration methods, we have witnessed nearly instantaneous improvements in:

  • Weight force plate weight distribution
  • Standing energy expenditure
  • Range of motion
  • Grip strength
  • Standing blood pressure
  • MILO shooting accuracy.

Below is a small sample of the results we have seen.

Posture Pro Milo 1.jpg

Image/Posture Pro

The top left of the image signifies the officer’s baseline standing posture. His right shoulder and left hip are lower. He is also rotated to the right. His starting grip strength is 107 lbs, while his pre-intervention blood pressure, measured by two EMTs, is 149/105.

In the left column below that is his force plate weight distribution. He bore 54.8% of his weight on his left leg and 45.2% on his right leg. Most of his weight was through his left heel, at 34.5%.

In the next column to the right is his post-3-minute PosturePro intervention. His posture improved significantly, while his grip strength increased to 118 lbs. His standing blood pressure decreased to 126/88 while his weight distribution improved significantly from heel to toe on his left foot.

The two charts on the right represent bodily oscillations and standing energy expenditure at rest on the force plates. If you think of standing posture as how you fight gravity, this will give you a prediction of how much energy you use while at standing rest.

The following images are the before and after MILO simulation results. This was an experienced officer with a military, DEA and SWAT background. If we see these types of results in an activity with such a small margin of error (firearm shooting accuracy), imagine the potential for basketball shooting, golf swing, baseball/softball pitching and hitting, and more.

Posture Pro Milo 2.jpg

Image/Posture Pro

After seeing results like these, our next objective is to test this out on the range in stress shooting scenarios.

Why did these dramatic improvements happen?

A few factors are at play here:

  1. Similar to earlier research findings in Neuroreport, standing on the frequency insoles positively impacted posture. In theory, the frequency from the insoles is picked up by the sensory receptors on the bottom of the feet. The signal then travels rapidly up to the brain to adjust (in these cases, improve) posture. Unfortunately, this is not a permanent result after a single use of the insoles. Once the insoles are removed, the posture slowly returned back to where it was previously. However, if worn over time, we have seen these changes stick as the body and neurology slowly becomes reaccustomed to proper posture.
  2. We also saw that training the eyes and improving convergence also seems to improve the brain-body connection, leading to improved posture.
  3. As the posture improved, so too did the weight distribution from left to right and heel to toe.
  4. The improved posture may have led to improved breathing, oxygenation of the system, and blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow, resulting in improved strength and stability.

Posture: A path forward for officer wellness

The connection between posture, the nervous system and physiological benefits cannot be overemphasized. Exploring the link neurology plays in posture improvement demonstrates that our posture is not solely dependent on musculoskeletal factors.

The job itself can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Whether it be organizational and/or operational stress, sleep deprivation, or long hours sitting, the result is the same: tired, aching, and in some cases, burnt out.

You might be asking, “Can a simple adjustment in posture really have such a significant impact on my well-being?

By addressing the position of our eyes and stimulating the receptors on the bottom of the feet to improve hormonal balance, strength, power and brain health, we can take Grandma’s advice a little more seriously.

You can then unlock the full potential of good posture and its impact on your life.

Now, sit up straight!

1. Minvaleev R, Nozdrachev A, Kir’ianova V, Ivanov A. (2004.) Postural Influences on the Hormone Level in Healthy Subjects: I. The Cobra Posture and Steroid Hormones. Human Physiology.

2. Brown J, Wells G, Trottier A, et al. (1989.) Back pain in a large Canadian police force. Spine (Phila Pa 1976).

3. Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, et al. (2015.) Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine.

4. Vallance J, Gardiner P, Lynch B, et al. (2018.) Evaluating the Evidence on Sitting, Smoking, and Health: Is Sitting Really the New Smoking? American Journal of Public Health.

5. Haavik H, Lelic D, Niazi I, et al. (2016.) Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study. Neural Plasticity.

6. Haavik H, Kumari N, Holt K, et al. (2021.) The contemporary model of vertebral column joint dysfunction and impact of high-velocity, low-amplitude controlled vertebral thrusts on neuromuscular function. European Journal of Applied Physiology.

7. Spinehealth. Posture and Breathing and Circulation.

8. Cuddy A. (2015.) Presence. Back Bay Books/Little, Brown, and Company. New York, NY. Pg 204.

9. Peper E, Harvey R, Mason L, et al. (2018.) Do better in math: How your body posture may change stereotype threat response. Neuroregulation.

10. Albrecht N, Burger C, Samuel M. (2020.) Neuroscience in the blink of an eye: using the retina to understand the brain. Biochem (Lond).

11. Sells S and Fixott R. (1957.) Evaluation of research on effects of visual training on visual functions. American Journal of Ophthalmology.

12. Morize A, Kapoula Z. (2017.) Reeducation of vergence dynamics improves postural control. Neurosci Lett.

13. De Voogd L, Kanen J, Neville D, et al. (2018.) Eye-Movement Intervention Enhances Extinction via Amygdala Deactivation. Journal of Neuroscience.

14. Billino J, Henning J, Gegenfurtner K. (2016.) The Role of Dopamine in Anticipatory Pursuit Eye Movements: Insights from Genetic Polymorphisms in Healthy Adults. eNeuro.

15. Rahimi M, Hassani P, Kheirkhah M, Fadardi J.(2023.) Effectiveness of eye movement exercise and diaphragmatic breathing with jogging in reducing migraine symptoms: A preliminary, randomized comparison trial. Brain Behavior.

16. Bucci M and Villeneuve P. (2022.) Interaction between Feet and Gaze in Postural Control. Brain Sci.

17. Kavounoudias A, Roll R, Roll J. (1998.) The plantar sole is a ‘dynamometric map’ for human balance control. Neuroreport.

Jason Shea is a subject matter expert who coordinates health and wellness training and certifications on behalf of the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee, including curriculum and course development and instructor certification criteria and approvals.