Tips on How to Improve Your Posture
Benefits of Good Posture
Good posture is an easy and very important way to maintain a healthy mind and body. When you practice correct posture, your body is in alignment with itself and this can alleviate common problems such as back or neck pain, headaches, and even fatigue. Being in good general health and standing (or sitting) tall will also boost your bearing and self-confidence.
Try these tips on improving your posture.
1. First, identify good posture.
Good posture is nothing more than keeping your body in alignment. Good posture while standing is a straight back, squared shoulders, chin up, chest out, stomach in. If you can draw a straight line from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee, to the middle of your ankle—–you’ve got it. To find yours:
- Using a mirror, align your ears, shoulders, and hips. Proper alignment places your ears loosely above your shoulders and above your hips. Again, these points make a straight line, but the spine itself curves in a slight ‘S’. You’ll find that this may be slightly uncomfortable for you if you have been living with incorrect posture for many years.
- If you do experience actual pain though, look at your side view in a mirror to see if you’re forcing your back into an unnatural position.
- When standing straight up, make sure that your weight is evenly distributed on your feet.
2. Train your muscles to do the work.
Exercises that strengthen the muscles across your upper back and shoulders will help you to maintain good posture. You don’t need to develop a body builder physique—–it’s more important to build “muscle memory” so that you unconsciously and naturally maintain correct posture without fatigue.
When you lift weights, you should exercise the agonist and antagonist muscles evenly. This means that you should exercise your hamstrings as much as your quadriceps, chest as much as your back, and so on. This will help with correct posture. Try the following, with or without hand weights:
- Exercise One
- Square your posture, head upright, so that your ears are aligned over your shoulders.
- Raise both arms straight out, alongside your ears, palms up.
- Bend forearms in and back, toward shoulders, in an effort to touch your shoulder blades with your fingertips.
- Do ten repetitions with both arms, then alternate ten reps for each arm singularly.
- Exercise Two
- Align ears with shoulders as in Exercise One.
- Raise both arms out to sides at shoulder height, and hold for a slow count of ten.
- Slowly lower arms to sides, counting ten as you lower.
- Slowly raise arms back to shoulder height, counting to ten as you raise your arms.
- Do ten reps, constantly checking your alignment with each rep. If ten reps are too many to start, do as many as you can. You should at least feel a slight fatigue in the shoulder muscles.
3. Be a penguin.
While you wait for a web page to load or the bread to toast, place your elbows at your side, and touch your shoulders with your hands.
- Keeping your hands on your shoulders and your ears aligned, raise both elbows (count one, two) and lower them back down (count one, two). Do as many reps as your waiting allows. You’ll be surprised how much exercise fits into 30 seconds.
4. Do stretches.
This can greatly help if you find that you have a sore back or neck. It’s also good to do during the day, if your job requires you to sit for long periods.
- Tilt or stretch your head in all four directions over your shoulders (forward, back, left, right), and gently massage your neck. Avoid rolling in a circle, as it may cause further strain.
- On your hands and knees, curl your back upwards, like a cat, and then do the opposite. Think about being able to place a bowl in the hollow of your back.
- Repeat these exercises a few times each day. Doing them in the morning helps your body stretch out the muscle lethargy of sleep. Done periodically throughout the day, it will help to raise your energy level without a heavy workout.
5. Practice yoga.
Yoga is excellent for posture, and for your health in general. It can also improve your balance. Yoga works your core muscles, making them stronger and helping you to keep a proper body alignment.
6. Sit up straight! Don’t slouch!
How often did your mother tell you that? For many people, this suggestion got filed right next to “eat your peas,” or “your eyes will stick that way.” Mom was right, though–—at least about your posture. Now, especially, when so many of us sit at a desk all day, it’s important to follow these basic guidelines, both for your posture and for your health.
- If you work long hours at a desk and have the option, use a chair that’s ergonomically designed for proper support and designed for your height and weight. If this is not an option, try using a small pillow for lumbar support.
- Align your back with the back of the office chair. This will help you avoid slouching or leaning forward, which you may find yourself doing after sitting too long at your desk.
- As with standing posture, keep your shoulders straight and squared, your head is upright, and your neck, back, and heels are all aligned.
- Keep both feet on the ground or footrest (if your legs don’t reach all the way to the ground).
- Adjust your chair and your position so that your arms are flexed, not straight out. Aim for roughly a 75- to 90-degree angle at the elbows. If they are too straight, you’re too far back, and if they are more than 90 degrees, you’re either sitting too close, or you’re slouching.
7. Take standing breaks.
Even if you’re using perfect posture while sitting in the best chair in the world (and it’s debatable whether there is such a thing), you need to stand up and stretch, walk around, do a little exercise, or just stand there for a few minutes.
Your body was not designed to sit all day, and recent studies from the University of Sydney have found that “[p]rolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.” Keep moving!
8. Sleep soundly.
While you will not be able to consciously maintain a particular posture while sleeping, how you sleep can have an effect on your waking posture.
- Using a firmer mattress will help by maintaining proper back support.
- Sleeping on your back will help keep your shoulders straight, and it is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach.
- Stomach sleeping can cause neck issues! You must definitely avoid sleeping on your stomach if your particular aim is how to improve your neck posture.
- If you prefer sleeping on your side, try slipping a small, flat pillow between your knees to help keep your spine aligned and straight.
- Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders. Don’t overdo the pillows—–too many, and your head can be bent in an unnatural position. This will hurt your posture and you’ll wake up feeling stiff, sore, and groggy.
9. Stay in shape.
To keep your entire musculoskeletal system in tune to support your posture, it’s important to keep yourself in shape. Try these tips:
- Lie on your back, with your legs bent to about 90 degrees at the knee, and your feet on the floor.
- Pull your belly-button towards your spine, holding it at the end. This is a different type of contraction than crunches (crunches feel like they are more at the front of your stomach, while this feels like it is more inwards and towards your back).
- Hold for ten seconds, repeat eight times. Repeat it daily.
- Maintain this proper posture even if you are getting tired.
- Breathe normally during this exercise, as you are training your core to maintain this position during normal activities in daily life.
10. Think string.
Always imagine that a string coming from the top of your head is pulling you gently up towards the ceiling. Visualization techniques like this one can guide your sense of proper position and height effectively.
Adapted from How to Improve Your Posture.