5 Simple Exercises to Improve Your Posture
How much time do you spend sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard or stooped over your smartphone? However active you might be, modern habits often do not add up to good posture.
Practicing simple posture exercises might not only help you to avoid back pain and injury but also build muscle, increase energy and release tension. It could also enable you to appear taller and slimmer and even help your self-confidence.
We’ll examine the benefits of improved posture, how to counter-balance the problems of modern-day life to protect your bones and joints, and review 5 simple posture correction exercises to get your body aligned.
Read on! Your spine will thank you for it!
What is posture?
According to the American Chiropractic Association, posture is the way we hold our bodies when standing, sitting, or lying down. You might not be aware of this, but your body is constantly fighting against gravity to keep you upright.
If you have good posture, your bones and joints are aligned. This enables the postural muscles in your back, abdomen, and legs to provide your body with the tension they need to stop gravity pushing you over.
How can I benefit from good posture?
If you are passionate about fitness, improving your posture will not only help prevent injury, it will also optimise your performance by enabling your muscles to work efficiently and recover quickly. Good posture enables you to:
- keep bones and joints in alignment, enabling your muscles to work efficiently. This reduces muscle fatigue and the wear and tear that can cause degenerative disorders such as arthritis
- reduce stress on the ligaments in your spine, resulting in fewer injuries
- breathe more easily so your lungs can take in enough oxygen to feed your muscles and tissues
- digest your food efficiently, enabling your body to process the nutrients from your diet quickly to provide you with fuel for energy
What does good posture look like?
- Your lower back is an elongated s-shape curve that acts as a “shock absorber” for your spine
- Your neck holds your head high and straight on your spine
- Your ears are in line with the middle of your shoulders
- Your shoulder blades are back and down and your breastbone lifted
- Your abdomen is tucked in, your pelvis un-tilted
- Your knees are slightly bent and shoulder-width apart
5 simple exercises to improve posture
There are many simple exercises that can help improve posture fast. Here are 5 of our favourites.
1. The plank
A strong core is essential for good posture, so if you only have time to do one exercise, choose the plank as it strengthens abdominal muscles whilst also working your back and shoulders.
Method: Lie on your stomach with your palms on the floor next to your shoulders and your legs together. Push into the floor until your arms and spine are straight and your weight is evenly distributed between your hands and your toes. Hold for 30 seconds at first and extend the time as your muscles get stronger.
2. Shoulder roll
Rounded shoulders are one of the main causes of bad posture, often due to the amount of time you spend sitting at a desk, stooped over your keyboard or staring at a smartphone. Practicing simple shoulder rolls will help relieve tension in your upper body and align the bones and joints in your back and neck.
Method: While standing or sitting, inhale and raise your shoulders towards your ears. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale and gently roll your shoulders back and down, pulling your shoulder blades together. Aim for 5-10 repetitions, at least twice daily.
3. Pilates swim
Stretching and strengthening the muscles in your back helps support your spine and promotes flexibility which can help prevent injury. Over time this will help you sit and stand straighter and for longer.
Method: Lie on your stomach with your hands and legs stretched out and your palms down. Begin by lifting your right arm and left leg, keeping your elbow and knees straight but not locked. Hold for 3 seconds, lower and repeat on the other side.
4. Side bends
Your oblique muscles are essential for twisting your body. If you carry a lot of tension in your back and shoulders, you are likely to start your twist from your upper body rather than turning from your ribcage. Strengthening your oblique muscles can help support your back, preventing tightness and increasing flexibility.
Method: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and shoulders relaxed. Holding a dumbbell or a small bottle of water bend slowly to one side and then return to neutral. Repeat on the other side. Aim for 10 repetitions and increase as your muscles get stronger.
5. Kneeling stretch
If you spend a lot of time sitting, your muscles are likely to be tight which can contribute to poor posture. A kneeling stretch may help to relieve tightness and strengthen the iliopsoas muscle that connects your hips to your spine.
Method: Place one knee on a mat and lunge forward with your other foot until your knee is a right angle. Rest your hands on your thigh. Gently push your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the front of your hip. Repeat on the other side.
What else can I do to improve posture?
As well as exercising, take a look at your daily habits at home and at work. What changes can you implement to improve your posture?
- When sitting at your desk, make sure your back is supported by your chair, your feet are flat on the floor and your eyes are level with the centre of your screen.
- Move more. If it helps, set a reminder to get up and take a walk every 30 minutes, do a few shoulder rolls and stretch out your neck.
- Notice how often you hunch your shoulders over your keyboard or phone, and make an effort to bring your shoulder blades back and down.
- Imagine your head is attached to a string being pulled straight up. Allow your neck and spine to arrange themselves in a line perpendicular to the imaginary string, and your shoulders will relax naturally.
Practicing simple posture correction exercises every day will enable you to build muscle flexibility and strength, and keep your joints healthy. This may not only help you to avoid injury and everyday aches and pains but also enable you to look and feel better and optimise your athletic performance.
Are you sitting up straight?