Think about what you do all day. If you sit at a desk, you are likely to have slumped shoulders. If you look down at your phone, you are likely to have a strained neck. Posture is important for health and taking control of it can prevent injuries and make us look more confident and approachable. How to improve posture? Exercise and pay attention.
How To Improve Posture
It is difficult to remember to keep your shoulders back and stand tall, especially if working at a computer all day. What may help is setting a timer for once per hour to do a “posture check” where you sit tall and then remind yourself. Eventually it may become a habit.
Good posture benefits:
- Spine health
- Prevent injuries
- Breathe easier
- Better digestion
- Positive appearance to others
Posture has two sides to it such as our body does → front and back. The muscles in the back of your body stretch out and weaken as a result from the constant stretch. These are typically the scapular (shoulder blade) stabilizing muscles. As a result of a weak back, the front body is closing up and tightening. This is general for any part of the spine. Neck pain or lower back pain included.
Weakened back muscles ⇒ compress spine ⇒ back injury ⇒ compromise back ⇒ other injury
Look what happens when we use our phones, whether its sitting or standing up. Ouch! I am guilty of this.
The idea is to strengthen the back but also stretch the front. Of course we need to keep in mind that ideally all parts should be strengthened and stretched equally. Having good core strength also plays a big role in posture. Here are some exercises to help.
- Activates the scapular muscles, loosens the shoulders
Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you roll the shoulders up and back and roll them in circles.
- Strengthens shoulders and upper back
Slide yours arms up against the wall with elbows bent while keeping your upper back and head against the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and reach up.
- Opens up the chest
This one is my favorite! Use anything you can roll up and lay on if you don’t have a foam roll, as most people don’t (towel, yoga mat). Let your shoulders fall out to the sides and rest for a few minutes. Afterwards lay on the ground and it will feel like you are melting in a good way.
Alternatively, grab your wrists together and open up your chest. If you can’t reach, use a strap or towel. Even better, try it in a doorway with the frame as your guide.
- Counteracts being slumped forward
Laying on your stomach, rest your forearms down with elbows under shoulders. Open up the chest but keep your neck in line with your spine. Keep your abdominal contracted. You’ll feel it in your lower back. My head in here is a little too forward.
- Strengthens the upper back
With your arms forward at a 45º angle, lift up to your shoulder height while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep relaxed and don’t let your shoulders creep up to your ears.
- Strengthens and stabilizes the core
Have your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Keeping your core contracted and back straight like a table, lift opposite arm and leg. Ideally, there should be a straight line from wrist to ankle. Lift one appendage at a time if this is difficult.
Note: Tight hips and hamstrings can contribute to posture changes as well. Consider a stretch for these. Here are 5 Morning Stretches For The Best Day Ever to help you get started.
Sore back? Try 5 Twists To Loosen The Spine
*Please do not do any exercises that cause you pain
Fresh Moves: Improve posture by strengthening the upper back and stretching the chest.
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