When you read the title of this piece, you probably forced yourself to sit up a little straighter or stand a little taller, knowing that you need to work on this more often. I get it, and you are not alone. Poor posture is a problem for most of us and it’s really important but often neglected.
Posture is not just about standing or sitting up straight. It’s not a cosmetic problem, though typically we do appear taller and leaner when we stand up straight. It’s more about body mechanics and how our muscles and joints have to compensate to accommodate poor posture habits.
Think about it. When our shoulders slump forward, it changes how the muscles in our low and mid back activate (or don’t). It changes how much impact our knees and hips take with each step. It changes how much work our shoulders and neck have to do. It even changes how much work our core muscles have to do (or not do). All of these compensations can and do eventually lead to pain, either in the joints, muscles, or both.
The good news is that you can do something about it. The single biggest fix for poor posture is simply awareness. When I was sitting in an office all day, I started putting notes on my computer and around my office door to remind me to sit or stand straight. That alone helped tremendously. Along with that simple fix, the following are some other hacks to easily begin correcting your posture.
- Think about lifting up through the top of your head and lift through your ribs. The goal is to straighten out your spine. For many of us, simply thinking about pulling our chin back will straighten everything out because when our shoulders slump, our chin juts forward.
- Practice Planks. Planks are the single best core strengthening exercise for us all. In a proper plank, our deep core musculature has no choice but the activate. Typically high planks are more shoulder dependent, while low planks are more abdominal dependent. Both variations are excellent for posture. The key to a great plank is making sure your body is in a straight line. If you can’t hold it for very long, no worries. Just be consistent and you will quickly see big improvement in your time!
- CHECK YOUR SHOES. The shoes we wear can directly affect our posture. If we are in the wrong shoes, our body will adapt to the shoe, changing every step we take. Be conscious of how your shoes are forcing you forward or causing your feet to roll to the inside or outside with each step.
- HIP BRIDGES All too often, our glutes are not thought of as part of our core but they are essential to our posture and our gait. If we have weak glutes, our body is not able to properly support our torso. Strengthening the glutes and creating muscle memory for our glutes to support us is vital.A great exercise to directly target the glute muscles is hip bridges. The key to this exercise is to make sure that your feet are hip distance apart and pointing straight forward. Remember when you lift your hips from the ground, press firmly through your feet. You should feel your glute muscles working by lightly squeezing.
- CHEST OPENING STRETCHES. Whenever our shoulders roll forward, we are “closing” our chest. We shorten the muscles and tissue between our shoulders in the front, so chest opening stretches are a great way to make it easier for our body to straighten up. There are several ways to do this but a couple of my favorite are a doorway stretch and a counter stretch.