Posture is the position of the body when a person is sitting, standing, lying down, or performing different tasks. Researchers have linked poor posture to some uncomfortable health conditions and a high risk of injury, especially during exercise. Having good posture is very important. Poor body position and alignment can cause various health problems, such as:
- Back and neck pain.
- Poor balance.
- Labored breathing
Poor posture can be responsible for other conditions, too. According to Harvard Health, researchers are investigating possible connections between poor posture and sleep disorders, fatigue, and mood disorders. Poor posture can be common, and it can also be due to poor muscle tone and low levels of strength and flexibility. There are many ways to overcome habitual bad posture and build the correct muscles.
Exercises and stretches
The most useful exercises to improve posture affect the core: the back, buttocks and abdomen.
Begin by lying on your back with your legs shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your heels as close to your buttocks as possible. With your hands at your sides, lift your buttocks and lower your back off the floor. There should be a diagonal line from the knees to the hips and down to the shoulders. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently lower your hips to the floor. Repeat this exercise 8 to 10 times per session.
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms bent. Look down at the floor, keeping your neck straight and your hands on either side of your face. Keeping your forearms flat on the floor and keeping your head and neck straight, gently use your arms to lift your upper body, while arching your back. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently lower your body back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 8 to 10 times per session.
Several variations of the plank exercise can help improve posture. Below is the basic plank, but a person can find different versions more or less effective. Begin by lying on your stomach. Change the position so that the weight of the body rests on the forearms and toes, with the rest of the body suspended on the floor. Some people prefer to have their arms extended and their hands, not their forearms, touching the ground.
Stay in this position for a few breaths, concentrating on keeping your core and abdominal muscles contracted, before lowering your body and releasing the position.
Hip flexor stretch
Stand with your legs together. With your right foot, take a big step forward, keeping your feet and knees pointed forward. Gently bend your right knee and lunge forward, until there is a stretching sensation in front of your left hip. Hold this position for a few seconds, then get back on your feet. Repeat the exercise, this time with the other foot to move forward.
From a standing position, slowly bend your right knee and lift your right foot behind your body. With your right hand, grasp your right foot and pull it toward your buttocks, until there is a stretching sensation in the hip and quadriceps, a group of muscles in the front of the thigh. Make sure your knees stay together. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and release it, slowly lowering your foot to the ground. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
Stand up straight, with your legs shoulder-width apart. Using both hands, extend the hand behind the body and interlock the fingers with the palms facing up. Keeping your back and arms straight, gently pull back and down through your shoulders. Hold the position for a few seconds, then release it.
Other tips to improve posture
Besides regular stretching, there are many ways to improve posture. These include:
- Use of a posture device: There are suspenders or shirts that gently draw the shoulders back to improve posture in the way the person sits and stands.
- Staying Active: Exercise can help build the muscles you need to maintain good posture.
- Be mindful of devices: Make sure computer screens and keyboards are at a height that encourages healthy posture. Desk chairs and work surfaces should also be at a suitable height.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying extra weight can put extra strain on your muscles and cause your body to be out of alignment.
- Get Sufficient Support: Make sure your buttocks, back, and thighs have enough support when sitting. Use a small pillow behind your back if necessary, and make sure your hips and thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Use your imagination: When standing, pretend there is a rope that extends from the top of your head into the air. Imagine someone is pulling on that rope, keeping their head up and their shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in a straight alignment.