How to Improve Your Posture
How to Achieve Great Posture
Many people received stern admonition from their mothers about the importance of good posture. Complying with their mothers had more to do with obedience than the understanding of how poor posture could affect us long-term. In some cases, our parents did not realize the anatomical and biomechanical implications of good posture.
Nevertheless, maintaining good posture has long-term effects of reducing the stress placed on spinal joints. The results are a healthy spine that does not suffer from degenerative changes to bone structure that is difficult to reverse.
What is Posture?
Essentially, posture is the alignment and positioning of the body while sitting, standing or lying down. The force of gravity has an effect on muscles, ligaments and joints. Unless the gravity is evenly distributed through the body, certain areas may become overstressed.
We develop good posture by training the body to sit, stand, walk and lie down in less stressful positions. Muscles and ligaments are supported by the least amount of strain during various activities. Correct posture is noticeable when any of these scenarios occur:
- Bones and joints align to use muscles correctly.
- There is a decrease to the abnormal wearing of joints, resulting in arthritis.
- Stress to the ligaments that hold spinal joints is decreased.
- Strain, backache and muscle pain is prevented.
- Fatigue is prevented due to efficient use of muscles.
- The spine is not set in abnormal positions.
- Good appearance from an erect posture.
The body is similar to a building with a poor foundation when poor posture is present. Years of strains and stresses may take its toll without changing the amount of weight and gravity distribution.
How Doctors May Diagnose Good Posture
Generally, a doctor or therapist examines the alignment of weight bearing joints. The patient is usually standing. Examining from a back view, the doctor or therapist looks for lateral curvatures in the spine and no angular shape to the legs.
The side view presents a smooth S-shaped curve when good posture is present. Ideally, body weight is balanced over the lower extremities and spine with minimum muscular effort.
Following is an in-depth guide to help improve your posture during routine, daily activities.
Positions That Affect Posture
The body endures many different routine positions that can affect posture. These include:
- Carrying and lifting objects *
For most people, sitting causes the most problems with posture. We might have occasionally obeyed our mothers when admonished to sit up straight. However, bad habits developed over the years can become normal until poor posture leads to other problems.
Driving or using a computer typically contributes to poor posture habits while sitting. For some, focusing on a specific activity causes unconscious protruding forward of the head and neck. The body tends to follow movements of the head, rounding forward the thoracic and lumbar spine.
This causes an imbalance of weight for the head and upper body over the spinal column. Rather, the support comes from muscle energy and the spinal ligaments stretch to accommodate. Eventually, this can increase fatigue and pain in the upper back and neck.
Further, shoulders round forward in an attempt to adjust to the strain and contribute to the imbalance. To prevent this from occurring, you should attempt to maintain the S-shaped curvature while sitting.
An awareness of good posture is necessary to break old habits. Proper sitting and standing has long-term benefits and allows you to work and operate a vehicle more efficiently. If practice makes perfect, then practicing proper posture techniques will help to prevent anatomical changes to the body’s structure.
Correcting poor posture helps to determine areas of improvement. Changing daily habits will correct areas that are overstressed. These efforts will improve back support and decrease the amount of neck and back pain. Perseverance will have long-term dividends. Initially, the changes may seem unnatural. However, you will become more comfortable with the changes over a period of time.
Improving posture also requires knowing what is good. Standing up straight is not simply tensing the back and sticking out your chest. Rather, the proper stance is to evenly distribute your weight while standing. While this might feel like you are leaning forward, you are actually standing correctly. The unnatural will become natural.
Improve Your Posture While Sitting
You can improve your posture while sitting by practicing a few easy steps.
While sitting in an office chair, make sure your back is aligned with the back of the chair. Place a small pillow or folded towel in the arch of your lower back. A straight-backed chair can make this easier.
Ergonomically built office furniture is becoming common in the workplace, which improve working conditions and keeps employees healthy. Therefore, many new office chairs have lumbar supports and other features built to provide good posture support. This can make it easier to maintain good posture, but you will still need to use the chairs correctly.
Avoid leaning forward or slouching after sitting for long periods. Keep your shoulders and back straight. This is done correctly when your buttock touches the back of the chair.
Make adjustments to the office chair to fit your body appropriately. Keep your heels, neck and back aligned. Keep both feet on the floor or use a footrest if necessary.
You will know you are in a good sitting position without the support of a lumbar roll or back support by:
- Sitting at the end of the chair, slouching completely.
- Draw up, accentuating the curve of your back, holding for several seconds.
- Release and stay in that position.
You can also improve your posture in a sitting position by:
- Distributing your body weight on both hips.
- Bending your knees and keeping them even or slightly higher than your hips. Do not cross your legs.
- Change your sitting position every 30 minutes, if possible.
- Place both feet flatly on the floor.
- Do not twist at the waist if you have a chair that rolls or pivots. Turn your entire body.
- Stand up by moving towards the front of the seat. Straighten your legs and do not bend at the waist.
- Stretch your back.
- Make adjustments to your work station and chair height. Keep your shoulders relaxed while resting your arms and elbows on the chair or desk.
Improve Your Posture While Standing
Standing is another position that can either help or hurt your posture. A few changes can make a difference, particularly in how you balance your weight.
- Place most of your weight on the balls of your feet while standing. Avoid shifting weight onto your heels and locking the knees.
- Stand with feet spread slightly, close to shoulder width.
- Keep arms hanging naturally alongside your body.
- Stand with your shoulders upright.
- Keep your head level by tucking in the chin.
- Do not push your head forward; rather, keep it squarely on top of your neck and spine.
- Practice standing against a wall, making sure your buttocks and shoulders touch the wall. If your head does not also touch the wall, it is craning forward too much.
Improve Your Posture While Walking
Walking is a natural part of life. Many people walk as part of an exercise regimen. While this is good to remain physically healthy, walking improperly can have adverse affects. You can improve your cholesterol, loose or maintain weight and have good posture.
Holding your body correctly while walking can help you breathe easier and avoid pain in your legs, back and feet. You can enjoy walking pain-free.
- Do not look down while walking. Keep eyes forward.
- Hold your chin up, parallel to the ground to reduce strains to the back and neck.
- Hold in your stomach while walking or running.
- You can avoid arching your back by rotating the hips forward and tucking in the buttocks.
- Shrug and relax your shoulders, allowing them to fall back slightly.
- Make sure your shoulders are aligned properly with your body.
Improve Your Posture While Driving
It is just as important to improve your posture while driving as sitting and standing. Long commutes can lead to hip and back problems. Modifying your posture while driving can make the experience comfortable, even if you drive in rush hour traffic daily.
Frequently change your driving positions as safely as possible. This will prevent sitting in the same position for a long time. Remaining in the same position constantly can aggravate your body, even if you have good posture while driving.
Other techniques to try include:
- Keeping our back firmly against the seat. This provides back support.
- Make sure the seat is a proper distance from the steering wheel and pedals for your height. This will help you avoid over-reaching or leaning forward, which puts strain on your body.
- Adjust the headrest to support the middle of your head. This will keep your head upright. Make sure the distance between your head and the headrest is four inches or less.
- As with sitting in an office chair, place a lumbar roll at your back’s curve. *Keep your knees either higher or at the same level as your hips.
Improve Your Posture While Carrying and Lifting Objects
You can feel immediate pain in your back form lifting or carrying heavy objects such as a box or piece of furniture. Unless there is pain, you might not notice the damage to your posture as easily. You should keep your entire body in proper alignment to improve your posture while carrying or lifting objects.
To lift an object from the floor:
- Try not to lift anything that is more than 30 pounds, unless you are required to do so at work.
- Make sure your feet are firmly planted before attempting to lift an object.
- Keep your back straight, bending your hips and knees to pick up an object.
- Avoid bending forward from the waist.
- Stand close to the object, keeping your feet on the ground. This will prevent putting undue strain on the muscles. *Keep your stomach tighten, lifting the object with your leg muscles.
- Keep your knees straight and do not jerk the object towards your body.
Movements for lifting an object from a table has similar motions.
- Move the object to the edge of the table before attempting to pick it up. This will help you in holding it close to your body.
- Bend your knees, placing you at a closer level with the object.
- Lift the object with your leg muscles as you rise to a standing position. *Do not raise the object above your waist level, especially if it is heavy.
- Keep your arms bent while holding the object close to your body.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and walk slowly.
- Lower the object by positioning your feet in the same manner when lifting.
- Bend your knees and hips while tightening the stomach muscles.
Never use your lower back to lift or carry objects. Instead, use your leg and stomach muscles. A supportive belt can also help improve your posture while lifting and carrying objects.
Rotate the object between each arm if it is small enough to carry with one arm. Balance the weight from a purse or backpack on both sides. You could also use a backpack on wheels to prevent carrying too much weight.
Improve Your Posture While Sleeping
Sleepless and restless nights could be the result of poor posture. Most people spend approximately one-third of their life in bed. Therefore, it is essential to improve your posture while sleeping. A good mattress and a few extra pillows can help you have better nights without waking up to pain and discomfort.
A sinking mattress is a sign that it needs to be replaced. Additionally, soft mattresses can push the spine into a deep curve. A firm mattress is a good investment considering how it will help you over a long period of time.
The type of pillow, mattress and position will vary for each person. The key is to find the right position and support that is most comfortable for you. While sleeping:
- Lie on your side rather than face down. Sleeping face down causes the back to sink inward.
- If you prefer, try sleeping on your back. For some people, sleeping on their side may actually damage the posture. *Sleeping on your back can straighten the shoulders.
- To maintain the proper curvature of your spine, place a small or medium sized pillow between your legs. This can help to alleviate stretching and pressure while you sleep.
- You can also use a rolled hand towel by placing it below the chin.
- Place a pillow that is medium firm under your head, along with a rolled hand towel under your neck.
- A medium firm pillow under the lower part of your legs and knees might also give you a naturally relaxed position. *Typically, a flat pillow between the legs works best in keeping the spine aligned properly.
- A pillow can also support and align your head and shoulders.
Building a strong core is a direct path to having good posture. Having strong core muscles will stabilize the torso, whether you are sitting for a long period, sleeping or standing.
The muscles in your abdomen and lower back connects to the pelvis and spine. Some of the muscles in this area moves the torso by rotating, extending and flexing the spine. Others work as a stabilizer in the pelvis and spine for a natural position.
Traditional sit-ups could strengthen a few core muscles; today, yoga and fitness programs can target the core muscles. By using slow, controlled movements, you can maximize the effects of a good core workout and have a stronger, better posture.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, healthy adults should include core muscle strengthening exercises in a workout routine twice a week.
Exercises to Improve Your Posture
There are a number of exercises that can help strengthen your core muscles and lead to good posture. Finding the ones that work best for you is a matter of preference and what is safe. Additionally, understanding how certain exercises work to improve posture comes with the knowledge of which muscles are strengthened. The following is a brief description of the composition of posture exercises.
Four core muscle groups are the target of these exercises, which include oblique, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and the erector spinae.
- The internal and external oblique muscles are diagonal around the waist and used to rotate the torso.
- The rectus abdominis is commonly known as the six pack area of muscles. These are vertical down the stomach and used when you bend forward.
- The deep core muscles are the transverse abdominis that wrap around the waist. Picture a corset around the waist that pulls the abdomen toward the spine with inward and upward motions.
- The erector spinae are the back muscles that run the length of your spine and helps to prevent slouching.
You can make exercises for your posture a routine part of a workout regimen. Your muscles can unlearn poor posture habits you developed over the years. This will help to strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture long-term.
Maintain normal breathing while exercising. Your core muscles will automatically stay in the right position during regular daily activities.
Exercise: Single Leg Extension to Stabilize the Core
This exercise trains the core muscles to work and stabilize the pelvis region.
- Step 1: Start by lying on your back, knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head. *Step 2: Press the lower back towards the floor. Curl your head upwards away from the floor.
- Step 3: Exhale and pull your navel inward.
- Step 4: Pull one knee towards your chest slowly, making sure your lower back stays on the floor.
- Step 5: Extend the opposite leg in a 45-degree angle above the floor. Extend your leg higher if your lower back arches. *Switch legs and do five or 10 extensions per leg.
Exercise: Training the Core Muscles
- Step 1: Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle while lying on your back with feet flat on the floor.
- Step 2: Pull your belly button towards the spine. Hold 10 seconds and repeat at least eight times.
You can do this daily to train the core muscles for good posture and other exercises. This exercise differs from traditional crunches because the focus is on the back and inner muscles. Crunches are generally concentrated at the front of the stomach.
Exercise: Strengthen Upper Back and Shoulder Muscles
These exercises are effective with or without using hand weights.
Raise your arms upward while aligning your ears over the shoulders. Touch your shoulder blades by bending the forearms towards your shoulders. Do this 10 times with both arms. Alternate 10 repetitions with one arm at a time.
Raise your arms at shoulder height sideways, as if you were going to fly. Align your ears with the shoulders. Hold in this position and count to 10 slowly. Lower your arms slowly while counting to 10 each time. Reverse and slowly raise your arms upward to shoulder height while counting to 10. Do 10 repetitions in each direction and check your alignment. Do as many as possible if 10 reps are too much. You will experience fatigue in your shoulder muscles.
You can do this exercise throughout the day while completing small tasks such as popping popcorn or making toast. Place your elbows at your side. Touch your shoulders with your hands while aligning your ears with the shoulders. In this position, raise your elbows and hold for two counts. Lower your elbows and hold for two counts. Do as many reps as you can.
Making Exercise Less Tedious
Making exercise less tedious can be a great motivator. It is possible to find time to work towards a better posture, even if it is a 30 second exercise. Poor posture typically develops after years of bad habits. Therefore, be patient and realize that correcting your posture will take time.
For some people, visualization techniques are helpful. For example, imagine a string at the top of your head is pulling you upwards. While walking, imagine that you are trying to balance a book on your head. This can help prevent slouching that has become a habit for many people.
Another visualization technique is to think of something unique such as a color or specific object. Use either as a reminder to check your posture. Whenever you think of the object or color, make sure your posture is straight.
Better for Your Self Esteem
Generally, your self-esteem is also improved with good posture. This is a benefit to keeping your ears, shoulders and hips aligned, and your head straight. Walking with your head up – rather than down – makes you appear self-confident. If you look confident, you will feel confident and improve your mood and attitude.
Your body is not properly aligned when your head is hanging. Your head should remain at a level where you can look straight ahead without turning your eyes upward. If you do this and feel tension in your neck, you are causing undue muscle tension.
With the help of a friend and some non-stretch tape, you can retrain your posture. Have a friend use the tape to make a giant X on your back. He or she should stretch the tape from the left shoulder to the right hip and vice versa. Close the top of the X with a straight line from shoulder to shoulder. Change the tape each day
Some people tighten muscles when trying to straighten their posture. This is a mistake because it adds more stress to the muscles and joints. The results will affect your bone structure and the way you breathe and move. Pain associated with attempts to straighten the posture is the result of undue muscle tension.
There is a difference between muscle exhaustion and pain. Muscles used to correct posture must be strengthened. Breathing can be your guide; realign your posture if you have to strain to breathe during movements. This may take several weeks, but persistence will pay off in the end.
To improve your alignment, try these steps:
- Step 1: Push shoulders forward
- Step 2: Raise shoulders upward *
- Step 3: Move them backward in a straight line Step 4: Bring shoulders straight down.
Tense or stiff shoulders during this alignment technique could mean muscle tension.
Direct your posture and balance towards the calves. With a bounce in your step, your upper body is relaxed and not carrying all the weight. You can assume an upright posture while taking the pressure from your shoulders, neck and back. You will have stringer calves and abdominal muscles.
Stretches to Improve Posture
Stretching exercises are an effective way to relieve the pain and discomfort often caused by poor posture. These five stretches can help your shoulders, back and neck remain healthy and supple for a better quality of life. Repeat the stretches throughout the day.
Stretch when you wake up to overcome the lethargy of sleep. Periodic stretches daily can also boost your energy level.
Roll a towel or other material into a log shape. Place it on the floor and lie on top of it, ensuring the top rests between the shoulder blades; the end should be above your bottom. Keep your legs straight and stretch your arms outward, palms facing up. Hold this position for as long as possible.
Lean back with your back against a wall. Keep your feet forward two feet. In this position, try touching your shoulders, back and buttocks. Touch the wall with your head by slowly tilting it backward. Hold for 30 seconds. This might be difficult if you have poor posture.
The simple chest is an easy stretch that you can do at any time. Keep your legs shoulder length apart and stand straight. Place your hands behind the back, interlocking finger. Pull backward and raise your clasped hands away from the back as far as possible. You should feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, slowly returning to the original position.
This stretching exercise is similar to lunges. Stand straight and place hands on your hips. Step forward with one foot while slowly bending your knee. Keep your back straight. You will feel a stretch in the hips. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the original position. Repeat using the opposite leg.
Working the hip flexors require less effort than some of the other stretches. Go easy to prevent injuring yourself.
Upward Pelvic Thrust
The upward pelvic thrust movements will stretch the core muscles, hamstrings, buttocks and hips.
Keep your legs together and bent at a 90 degree angle while lying on your back. Arms should be placed at your sides with palms facing the floor. Raise your buttocks slowly until you are in a straight line. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the original position. Repeat this stretch as much as possible without straining.
Keeping good form is important during this stretching exercise. Keep your head and neck still. Focus on a spot in the ceiling to avoid lifting your head from the floor.
Yoga to Improve Posture
There are many benefits to yoga, including an improved posture. You can sign up for a yoga class or purchase a workout video and practice at home. Yoga can provide noticeable improvements to your posture. Your spine and core muscles are strengthened.
With a few yoga techniques, you can have more grace and confidence. Below are descriptions of a few techniques and how each can benefit your posture.
The mountain pose is a complex yoga technique. The movements appear simple, but will teach you how to sense the perfect vertical alignment of your body. This technique requires a lot of practice. There is a tendency for some to overcompensate by pushing the shoulders backward too far. Keep in mind the goal of the mountain pose is not to see how far you can stick out your chest; rather, you want to find a neutral position for the midline.
The cat-cow is a series of stretches that also helps in finding a neutral position.
The bridge pose occurs with mild backbends to open your chest and shoulders. This works because the chest and shoulders are the most common areas of poor posture. Using the bridge pose technique also strengthens your back to give more support to the spine.
Warnings for Exercises and Yoga Techniques
Speak to your physician before you begin any type of exercise regimen. This is especially important for anyone who has had knee, pelvic, back or neck injuries in the past.
Stop exercising or doing yoga if you experience pain, clicking joints, fatigue or a pulled muscle. Continuing will not improve your posture; rather, you will become frustrated and possibly stop exercising. You could also cause serious injury to your body by continuing. Doing three reps at a time is better than pushing yourself. Slowly build up to more reps when you can perform the exercises or techniques without pain.
Sometimes, written descriptions are unclear and difficult to describe, thereby making it difficult to perform. Seek professional help to understand the proper movements for exercise and yoga techniques. Trained practitioners can help you improve your posture without wasting time doing a technique incorrectly.
If you conduct internet searches for techniques to improve your posture, look for information that is associated with osteopathy and physical therapy. These two fields are generally covered by most insurance and recommended by medical professionals. Other fields include acupuncture, the Alexander Technique and chiropractic therapy. Other alternative fields not verified through scientific trials and insurance could also work, but used with caution.
Affects of Poor Posture
Having weak core muscles can affect more than your self-esteem and appearance. Poor posture can also cause back pain and chronic disorders. It is estimated that nearly 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain. An improved posture and strengthened core muscles can help to relieve that pain.
People who suffer from mild lower back pain can benefit from core muscle exercises. According to the North American Spine Society, many people will notice an improved posture and no future problems with back pain.
Poor posture is often the result of bad habits, especially for people with a sedentary lifestyle.
Poor posture can affect your appearance, making you shorter. In some cases, poor posture might limit your height growth. People with poor posture can look unprofessional, self-conscious and bored.
One of the obvious signs of poor posture is pain. Your spine becomes misaligned from slouching. This leads to back pain. You may also have pain in your shoulders, legs, hips and neck. Some furniture can aid in misaligning the body.
Some people with poor posture have headaches and suffer from fatigue. Muscle fibers can become shorten from keeping your body in an improper position. The strain on the joints makes it harder to move. Fatigue makes people less active physically and susceptible to a disability.
The purpose of the pelvis is to act as a lever in the body. The pelvis has a huge impact on your height and posture. Individuals who are overweight might develop a tilted pelvis. This occurs when the stomach muscles become weakened by the excessive weight. The pelvis is pulled forward by the extra weight, resulting in bad posture and reduced height.
Knock Knees and Bow Legs
Knock knees and bow legs are two common conditions that affect posture and height. Individuals with knock knees place most of their weight on the instep; bow legs is a condition where individuals place the majority of their weight on the out-step.====Rounded Shoulders====
Rounded shoulders is another common condition that affects good posture. Individuals typically have an abnormal curvature of the spine. As a result, the shoulder push forward, giving the appearance that a person is hunched over.
Pain in the Joints and Foot
Joint and foot pain are also results of poor posture. Typically, the skeletal structure is poorly aligned. Pressure occurs in areas of the body that were not built to endure the pressure.
Chronic disorders are the more serious cases developed from poor posture. Over a period of time, poor blood flow and circulation can cause serious problems with internal organs and bodily functions. Posture alone is not the cause; rather, years of poor posture can exacerbate other conditions.
Corrective Measure That Can Improve Posture
Posture braces is a corrective measure that can improve your posture. These braces help to pull the shoulders backward while placing pressure on the middle back. As a result, the midsection is pressed outward, leading to good posture. Many physical therapists and chiropractors recommend a posture brace.
Posture braces are used for several reasons within industries that require good form. Dancers, military soldiers and service technicians are a few groups that may use posture braces. Dancers might use posture braces to help keep their focus on the dance routine rather than posture. Service technicians or similar personnel with jobs requiring heavy lifting can use posture braces to minimize workplace injuries.
A posture brace helps to correct posture and reduce the amount of pain you might otherwise experience. Other benefits include increased circulation and less tension headaches.
Having a Good Fit
Having the best fit is important for the posture brace to work correctly. Even after you find a good fit, it will take some time to adjust. If you can afford it, purchase at least two or three posture braces once you have found the right one. This way, you can change one daily because they tend to hold sweat.
The length of time to wear the brace each day might vary among individuals. Of course, if you wear one at work, you will keep it on for the entire work shift.
There are many posture braces on the market to choose, which requires researching options and the standards for purchasing a good one. Several manufacturers provide posture braces for unique situations, so you might want to try several before making a final decision.
Buying Posture Braces
Many online retailers sell posture braces. The price can vary, depending on the brand and capabilities. Some posture braces are as low as $20; others with premium functions are priced for as much as $300. Keep in mind, however, that the most expensive is not necessarily the best one for you.
Posture braces can help to correct your posture. These braces may also help to relieve lower back pain and support your back muscles. Living with poor posture is an unpleasant experience. Investing in a good posture brace can be an effective tool to combat these issues.
More Posture Tips
The human body is a strong movable frame enclosed with flexible muscles connected to the skeletal structure by ligaments. It is because of this that we are able to move around freely, unless we suffer from poor posture. Even if you do not experience the physiological effects of poor posture, know that your body is not functioning as it should.
Daily activities such as sitting in an office chair and sleeping can negatively impact your posture. However, by practicing good posture techniques through exercise, stretches and yoga, you will begin to have a stronger spine and better posture.
As some people age, they may begin to stoop over and hunch forward. This is due to years of poor posture habits. However, you can reverse this effect before it becomes a serious problem. Take corrective steps now before it becomes harder to change.
Poor posture can affect your appearance, height and self-confidence. The links between posture and these factors cannot be overstated. Good posture can increase your stature and overall quality of life.