Over 31 million Americans suffer from poor posture. Lifestyle habits, injury, lack of body awareness or certain medical conditions can influence poor posture. Let’s take a look at what exercises you can implement into your routine to improve your posture.
Posture describes the way in which someone holds their body. It's usually in reference to the way a person stands or sits.
Occupation, injury, age and specific conditions can all play a role in someone's posture.
Positioning of the ankles, pelvis, back, shoulders and neck are key components.
Practicing certain exercises can help to improve your posture.
Having a mindful practice such as Pilates or yoga can help with body awareness and alignment.
How can I improve my posture?
You can improve your posture by practicing exercises focusing on alignment. With regular practice, you can improve body awareness and understanding, so you can adjust your positioning confidently. Strength-based practices, with an emphasis on techniques such as Pilates, help to strengthen your stabilizing muscles which give the body a strong support base.
There is no gold standard for how everyone's posture should be. Variables such as age, injury, or specific conditions can heavily influence your posture. However, by understanding your posture type, performing certain exercises, and applying universal technique points, you can achieve optimal posture for your body.
Technique points for optimal posture
Here are some universal technique points which you can implement into your daily routine today:
- Start with the ankles. Weight should be evenly distributed between your big toe, little toe and heel, like a tripod. Positioning of the ankles affects how the thigh-bones sit in your hip sockets.
- Your pelvis should be relatively neutral, sitting in the center without tilting forwards or backwards. This helps create space for the hips joints whilst lengthening the lower spine and engaging the abdominal muscles.
- Lift your waist away from your hips to grow taller.
- Shine your collar bones forwards, slightly widening them out to the sides.
- Slide your shoulder blades down your back into a slight ‘V’ shape, creating space between your ears and shoulders.
- Imagine the crown of your head being gently pulled up by an imaginary piece of string.
Common posture types
The spine has a natural ‘S’ shape to it. This is important as it allows for a degree of flexibility whilst evenly distributing the weight.
- Hyper-kyphosis. Forward rounding of the upper back, shoulders, and neck.
- Hyper-lordosis. Excessive arch in the lower spine, tilting the pelvis backwards and pressing the stomach out.
- Flat Back. Lack of a natural arch in the lower back, causing a very straight spine with loss of flexibility.
- Sway Back. Pelvis tilted forwards with rounding in the upper back and shoulders.
- Scoliosis. Twists and sideways curvature in the spine. Ranging from mild to severe scoliosis.
Rounded shoulders – can I fix it?
Daily activities such as desk working, looking down at phones, or doing the washing up can cause rounding in the shoulders. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of your posture. Refer back to the universal technique points outlined above when you feel you start to slouch your shoulders. Performing exercises that improve shoulder flexion will also be beneficial.
Having optimal posture for your body is beneficial for many reasons. Engaging the right muscles ensures the body is working as one system to support itself. We, therefore, avoid overcompensating with certain muscle groups, which is often the cause of imbalances. Poor posture also puts undue stress on your musculoskeletal system. For example, an exaggerated arch in the lower spine puts stress on the lower vertebrae, which can lead to inflammation and pain. Optimal posture can reduce pain by removing potential excessive load on joints.
Shoulder flexion with resistance band exercise
If you know you are prone to rounded shoulders, then pick up a resistance band and jump right to the ‘Shoulder Flexion with Resistance Band’ exercise.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, grow tall from the crown of your head.
- Place the band in between your thumb and index finger in both hands.
- Arms are long by your sides. Keep a slight tension point in the band by slightly drawing your hands away from each other. Keep palms open instead of fists.
- Inhale to prepare, exhale, keep both arms straight as you extend them up over head.
- Maintain alignment of the spine, avoid flaring the ribs forward. Keep abdominal engaged and space between the shoulders and ears.
- Gently lower back down to your start position. Repeat ten times.
Another exercise to stretch your back and hamstrings while improving your posture is the roll-down.
- Stand tall with feet hip distance apart, gently pressing your pubic bone forwards.
- Have a slight bend in your knees.
- Inhale to prepare, exhale, gently nod chin to chest, start to roll down, from the top of spine, then mid-spine until you are fully bet over. Inhale and hold.
- As you exhale, draw the navel to your spine, using control from your center to move up to standing. Imagine peeling your spine back onto a wall gradually.
- Repeat four times.
Pelvic tilts exercise
The pelvic tilts exercise can not only be beneficial to your posture, but also help alleviate back pain.
- Stand with your feet under your hips with a soft bend in the knees.
- Place your hands on either side of your hips. Imagine your pelvis is like a bowl of water.
- Tilt your pelvis forwards by pressing your tailbone to the ceiling. Imagine the water spilling to the front.
- Then tilt your pelvis back, pressing your pubic bone forward. Imagining the water spilling to the back. Repeat eight times.
- On your last repetition, find the middle ground between those two points with your pelvis. Straighten your legs and stand tall.
- This will help you find your neutral pelvis position whilst activating your abdominal muscles.
Toe taps exercise
Strong abdominal muscles can significantly contribute to posture improvement.
- Lie on your back, with feet under knees and arms long by your sides, spine is long.
- Bring one leg up to the table-top and then the other. Gently press your lower back into the floor to protect your spine.
- Inhale to prepare, exhale, draw your navel to spine and tap one toe down to the mat. Inhale, draw it back to table-top.
- Keep alternating sides. Avoid popping the ribs up to the ceiling.
- Repeat twelve times.
- This will help to strengthen your abdominal, which is key for postural support.
It’s important to think of optimal posture for your own body based on individual needs, instead of size fits. Work to support your body the best you can by implementing the universal technique points and practicing these exercises regularly. Be mindful of these technique points during exercise and when you are going about daily activities. Remember to consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your posture or any of the exercises outlined above.