Good posture is a very important way to maintain a healthy mind and body. When you practice correct posture, your body is in alignment with itself. This can alleviate common problems such as back or neck pain, headaches, and fatigue. Being in good general health and standing tall will also boost your bearing and self confidence. Read on to learn how to improve posture.
How to Improve General Posture
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 doesn’t hurt at all. If you do experience pain, look at your side view in a mirror to see if you’re forcing your back into an unnatural position. If you do not have pain, then posture should not be altered, because this could cause other problems.
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 wait allows. You’ll be surprised how much exercise fits into 30 seconds.
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.
- Yoga will also help by teaching you on how to hold an erect posture while sitting, standing, and walking. Look for classes in your area, or scout YouTube for instructional videos.
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. 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 exercises 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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat the 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 also help to raise your energy level without a heavy workout.
How to Improve Standing Posture
Find your center. Proper standing posture is about balance and alignment. Here are some tips for achieving the correct upright posture:
- Stand up straight. This is the key to good standing posture, and bears repeating. As you develop good posture habits, this will become second nature.
- Keep your shoulders squared. It may feel unnatural at first, if you have not developed good posture habits. However, this will also become second nature.
- Place your feet about shoulder width apart, the same stance you would use for working out or many other physical activities.
- Keep your weight on the balls of your feet. When you rest on your heels, your natural tendency will be to slouch. Instead, stand up, and make an effort to stand on the balls of your feet. Notice how the rest of your body follows. Now rock back so that your weight is on your heels. Notice the way your entire body shifts into a “slouchy” posture with this single motion.
- Pull your head back and up. Picture yourself reaching for the ceiling with the top of your head. Keep your head square on top of the neck and spine as you do this.
Teach your body what it feels like. Stand with your back against a door or wall, with the back of your head, your shoulders, and your butt just touching it. If it feels awkward and uncomfortable, but don’t worry; as you develop good posture habits and train your body, it will feel uncomfortable to not stand this way.
How to Improve Sitting Posture
Sit up straight. 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, use a chair that’s ergonomically designed for proper support and designed for your height and weight. If this is not an option, you can try using a small pillow for lumbar support.
- 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.
- As with standing posture, keep your shoulders straight and squared, your head is upright, and your neck, back, and heels are all aligned.
- 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.
- Keep both feet on the ground or footrest.
Take standing breaks. Even if you’re using perfect posture while sitting in the best chair in the world, 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 have found that “prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.” Keep moving!
How to Improve Walking Posture
Start with good standing posture. Walking with good posture is simply an extension of standing with good posture.
- Avoid pushing your head forward.
- Keep your head up, shoulders back, chest out, and eyes looking straight ahead.
How to Improve Driving Posture
Start with good sitting posture. Not only is good posture recommended simply for good posture’s sake, it’s also important for more practical safety concerns. Your car’s seating and protective systems were designed for people sitting in the seat properly, and can actually have an impact on safety in the event of a collision.
- Adjust your seat to maintain a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel. If you’re leaning forward, pointing your toes, or reaching for the wheel, you’re too far away. If you are bunched up with your chin on top of the steering wheel, you’re too close.
- Keep your back against the seat and head rest.
Adjust the head rest. The head rest should be adjusted so that the middle of your head rests against it.
- Tilt the head rest as needed, to maintain a distance of no more than four inches (10cm) between the back of your head and the head rest.
How to Improve Sleeping Posture
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.
- Sleeping on your back will help keep your shoulders straight, and it is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach.
- 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.
- Using a firmer mattress will help by maintaining proper back support.
- If you prefer sleeping on your side, try slipping a small, flat pillow between your knees to help keep your spine aligned and straight.
Other Ways to Improve Posture
Avoid unintentional back injury. Lifting and carrying presents extra loads and balance problems that are not part of your normal, everyday physical structure. Lifting or carrying objects without regard to your physiology can cause discomfort, pain, or in some cases, real injury.
- When you’re lifting something off the ground any heavier than your cat, always bend at the knees, not the waist. Your back muscles are not designed for taking the weight, but your large leg and stomach muscles are. Use them well.
- Keep it tight. The closer you keep large or heavy objects to your chest, the less you use your lower back when carrying them. Instead, the work is done with your arms, chest, and upper back.
- If you do a lot of heavy lifting, either as part of weight training or as part of your job, consider wearing a supportive belt. This can help you maintain good posture while lifting.
- Balance your load to prevent stress and fatigue. If you’re carrying a heavy suitcase, change arms frequently. You’ll know when.
Stay in shape. To keep your entire musculoskeletal system in tune to support your posture, it’s important to keep yourself in shape.
- 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 and holding it at the end. This is a different type of contraction than crunches.
- Hold for ten seconds, repeat eight times.
- Maintain the proper posture even if you are getting tired and are not using other muscles like your back or butt muscles.
- Breathe normally during this exercise, as you are training your core to be able to maintain this position during normal activities in daily life.
- Repeat this exercise daily.
Have someone tape a giant X on your back from one shoulder to the opposite hip. Then put a straight line of tape across your shoulders closing the top of the X. Wear this during the day, to help retrain your back. This works really well if you hold shoulders back before taping, use wide non stretch tape and ideally change tape each day.
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.
Use color. If you need help remembering to keep your posture, think of a unique object or color. Every time you think of that object, check your posture.
Avoid the slouch when walking. Be sure to try to walk as if you had a book balancing on your head.
Focus on your calves. Let your posture and balance rely more on your calves. Try to feel an at ease attitude, and put a bounce in your step. You’ll find that it will free up the rest of your upper body to relax and assume a more upright posture that takes pressure from your back, shoulders and neck, and works on your ab muscles. This is awesome, since strong calves and abs rock!
- Do not keep doing exercises if you feel pain, clicking joints, pulled muscles or more than a slight fatigue.
- It is important to note that whenever a person begins trying to correct their posture that they will most likely experience soreness and pain after exercising and being self-conscious of their posture. The reason for this is because their body has been like this for some time and is now trying to adjust to something new.
- Anyone with current or previous back, neck, knee or pelvic injuries should not attempt to correct their posture themselves. This could further damage the body. Contact your doctor or other movement education professional before trying to tamper with your alignment.
- A great side benefit of keeping your head straight, and your ears/shoulders/hips aligned is an improvement in your self-esteem and attitude. If you walk with your head up, you appear more confident, and feel more confident, which improves your attitude and mood, making it easier to walk with your head up.
- Try to put your shoulders back, chin up, and back straight for five minutes. It may feel strange at first but if you try to do this regularly, your posture can get a lot better over time.
- Don’t tighten up your muscles when you are assuming a straight posture. It will only stress the joints and muscles themselves and this affects the skeleton, therefore your posture and even the way you move and breathe. Try to relax into it, but if you experience back pains, stop it! You are probably causing unnecessary muscle tension.
- If your head is hanging, you can’t be properly aligned. Keep your head at the level that allows you to look directly ahead without having to turn your eyes up. If you cannot do this without feeling tension in your neck, this means you are causing unnecessary muscle tension.
- There is also a specific type of brace that is designed to pull the shoulders back and allow support for the person to help aid in postural problems.
- Be patient with yourself. Correcting poor posture can take a long time, especially if you’ve had bad posture for years.
- Consider wearing a special shirt designed to aid posture; such a shirt is a training aid that strengthens your back muscles and makes your shoulders work to maintain proper posture throughout the day.
- Also playing sports greatly affects your posture. Especially ice hockey or something else, where you are constantly moving.