For years we have been warned about the negative effects that our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are causing to our health, poor posture being one of them. You may have even heard that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for hours in an office, commuting to and from work, and being hunched over looking at our smartphones all day long all contribute to poor posture and eventually to muscular imbalances and chronic pain. Being aware of proper posture is more important now than ever as our environment and habits continue to evolve.
There are many stretching and strengthening exercises to help correct poor posture caused by years of slouching or sitting in non-ergonomic office chairs. The muscles that make up your “core” that are attached to your spine and located deep within your abdominals can become weak if not trained properly. Tightness can develop in your hip flexors and chest muscles, along with weak glutes and deconditioned upper back muscles. Over time these imbalances can lead to back and neck pain and other health issues. Incorporating stretches and strength training exercises that focus on certain muscle groups can help correct these issues. Simply set a timer to remind yourself to stand up, move, and stretch after prolonged sitting.
Here’s seven terrific exercises that you can do in a simple home routine to get your poor posture in order. Do these once a day and you will start to notice changes in no time!
Chest Opener Stretch: Clasp your hands behind your back and push down towards the ground while reaching the arms away from the back of our body. Open your chest and lift your head up to feel a stretch across your chest. Hold for three breaths and then release.
Forward Fold: Stand with your big toes together and heels slightly apart. Walk your hands down your legs as you fold forward at the hips. Keep a slight bend in your knees, tuck your chin into your chest and allow your head to fall heavy to the floor. Don’t worry if your hands do not touch the ground. Hold pose for about 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat.
Cat Cow Stretch: Begin with your hands and knees on the floor and while maintaining a neutral spine (no rounding or arching). As you inhale, let your stomach soften and arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone. This is the cow. As you exhale, round your spine up to the ceiling, pulling your abs toward your spine and tucking your tailbone in, as well as your chin toward your chest. This is the “Halloween cat” part. Continue flowing back and forth from cat to cow, breathing deeply, for 10 repetitions.
Warrior 1 Lunge: In a standing position, step one foot back far enough so that it is straight and your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Press your hips forward, keep your torso facing the front, and reach your arms overhead. Relax shoulders and breathe gently. Hold about 30 seconds and switch legs. This stretch will open up your hips and strengthen your legs.
High Plank: Begin on the floor, on your hands and knees. Keep hands directly beneath your shoulders and extend one leg out and then the other so you are on your toes, in a push-up position. Hold this pose, keeping your abdominals pulled into your spine without any bending or sagging. Your torso should stay straight and rigid. Keep your neck and head in a neutral position and don’t let your shoulders crunch up towards your ears. You can also modify this by setting your knees down, but be sure to stay in a straight line. Eventually try working up to a 60 second hold.
Floor Bridge: Lie on your back on the carpet or on a yoga mat with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Place your arms at your side slightly away from your body with your palms up. Tighten your abdominals like you are about to take a punch to the gut while keeping your spine neutral. Push your heels into the floor and lift your buttocks up until there is no bend in your hips. Hold for a three count then slowly lower. Do 3 sets of 10 reps with a one-minute rest in between sets.
Resistance Band Pull-Apart: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding the band with both hands at arm’s length in front of you. Keep the band at chest height. Pull the band apart making it tighter, moving your arms laterally, away from your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do 3 sets of 10 reps with a one-minute rest in between sets. This exercise will strengthen your upper back and shoulder muscles.
It is never too late to start improving your posture. Having better posture will make you feel stronger and more confident. The chronic aches and pains from muscle imbalances will start to disappear. Your circulation, digestion, energy level, and sleep will also improve. All of this can be done by incorporating simple, daily stretches and regular strength training exercises. In fact, by the time you finish reading this article, it will be time for you to stand up and stretch!