Straighten Up! 7 Quick Exercises for Better Posture
Bad posture is slowly becoming an epidemic across Western society.
Some might claim this statement extreme. Yet, 40% of us spend the workday sitting. We hunch forward, protruding our neck toward our computer screens.
Perhaps you are doing this right now as you read this article. And maybe you didn’t even notice you were doing it. You might even absent mindedly hold a heavy bag on one shoulder which can add more stress to your natural alignment.
Well, here’s your wake-up call. Straighten up! Now, let’s work toward better posture together.
Do You Have Bad Posture?
Sit back in your chair. Bring your shoulders back and open up your chest. Bring your head back into a neutral position. Your mom was right - posture is important!
Yet, why should you concern yourself with fixing your bad posture?
Your body isn’t made to sit in this position, especially for long durations. However, we have built a society that makes our lives easier and more efficient. Thus, we move less and we sit more.
Many jobs require sitting for 8 hours a day. You forget about your posture. When you stand up, you are stiff and sore. Aches and pains develop.
Consequently, you may experience a number of negative health effects including:
- Chronic back, neck, shoulder, or wrist pain and stiffness
- Poor blood flow and circulation
- Increased stress
- Decreased mood
- Respiratory problems
- Poor digestion
- Body image issues
Your body tries to adapt to your bad posture. Your joints, muscles, and other tissues become strained and tight as they try to adjust. But again, the human body doesn’t function its best this way.
Luckily, we have the health help you need to better your posture. Rid yourself of your aches and pains for good. For optimal results, complete the following 7 postural exercises every day.
1. Shoulder Blade Pinch
You can perform this exercise anywhere, anytime - in the grocery store lineup, while driving, or while sitting at your desk at work. It’s simple but effective. It works the small rhomboid muscles in the mid-back and your middle trapezius muscles. These muscles keep your shoulders down and back, preventing you from hunching forward.
- Sit or stand tall, with a straight posture.
- Gently pinch your shoulder blades down and back. You don’t need to squeeze hard by any means, but the movement should open up your chest - it is a very small and slight movement. Also, make sure to avoid shrugging your shoulders.
- Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
- Aim for 10-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per day. You can do them all at once or throughout your day.
2. The Kleenex Box Exercise
You’ll likely feel silly performing this exercise and that’s okay! Remember, good posture is necessary for you to get the most out of your life.
This exercise offers postural health help in the form of realignment. It’s also harder than it sounds. You may read through the following instructions and think lifting a Kleenex box can’t be that hard. The hard part comes in when you are trying to maintain the right position throughout the exercise. If you aren’t maintaining the right position, you aren’t doing it right!
Now, grab a Kleenex box and find a free wall - let’s get started!
- Find a free wall and stand with your back against it.
- Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, and hold the box in between both your hands, with your palms facing inward.
- Gently pinch your shoulder blades down and in (like the Shoulder Blade Pinch Exercise).
- Maintaining the pinching of your shoulder blades and keeping your arms bent at 90 degrees, slowly lift the box up in front of you.
- The goal is to bring the box to touch the wall above your head. You must keep your elbows in line with the box. Only raise the box as high as you can without your elbows going outward. This is your challenge. You’ll notice your muscles getting stronger and your alignment improving as you get closer and closer to the wall.
- Do this exercise 10-12 times, 2-3 times per day.
3. Thumbs Up Shoulder Flexion
Similar to the above 2 exercises, this exercise involves pinching your shoulder blades down and in. This exercise is fairly simple. All you need is a free wall to position your back against.
- Stand tall with your back against a wall.
- Begin with your arms relaxed straight at your sides.
- Create a thumbs-up sign with both your hands.
- Keeping your arms straight, slowly bring your thumbs up to shoulder height. At the same time, gently pinch your shoulder blades down and in.
- Hold here for 5 seconds.
- Lower back down to the start position.
- Repeat 10-12 times, 2-3 times per day.
4. Outward Pulls
A resistance band works best for this exercise, especially as you gain strength in your mid-back. You can start without the resistance. However, we recommend adding in the band eventually. It will help you progress the exercise and in turn, consistently improve your posture and help maintain it.
- Stand or sit upright.
- Hold the end of a resistance band in each hand.
- Start with your elbows bent at 90 degrees at your sides. Your hands should be in front of you. Begin with slight tension in your band.
- Slowly pull your hands out. Make sure to keep your elbows at 90 degrees and at your sides.
- As you pull your hands out, gently pinch your shoulder blades down and in.
- Slowly return your hands back to start, releasing your shoulder blades. Avoid letting the band snap back. The movement outward and inward should be slow and controlled.
- Perform 10-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per day.
5. Deep Neck Flexor Holds
The deep neck flexors are the muscles that flex your neck forward and down. These muscles become weak when you protrude your head forward, such as when texting or staring at your computer screen.
By strengthening the deep neck flexors, you can realign your neck, which means decreased stress on your neck and shoulder muscles. Surprisingly, every inch that the neck extends forward is like adding another 10 pounds of weight to your head. In turn, your spine has that much more stress to deal with. This exercise helps fix the problem.
- Lie face up on a bed or comfortable surface, without a pillow. For additional support, you can roll a towel and place it in between your neck and the bed.
- Without the back of your head leaving the bed, slowly bring your chin toward your chest. Again, you might feel silly. You are, in a way, creating that ‘double chin face’ you may have goofed around with as a child.
- Avoid tensing up the muscles at the sides of your neck. Instead, focus on using the muscles deep in front of the neck. They are small muscles. Don’t expect a burning or fatigue, such as what you might feel in the glutes and thighs when doing squats. And remember, practice makes perfect! It may not feel like you are doing a lot but you are.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds. Build to hold each repetition for 10 seconds.
- Complete 10-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per day.
6. Chest Stretch
Did you know your bad posture can be caused by tight chest muscles? When this happens, your shoulder posture takes a hit. It pulls the front parts of your shoulders in, creating a hunched appearance.
By regularly stretching these muscles, you can prevent bad posture caused by tight chest muscles.
- Stand in a doorway.
- Place your forearms and hands on the door frame. Your elbows should be at shoulder height here.
- Step one foot through the doorway and lean in. You should feel a gentle stretch through your chest and the front of your shoulders.
- Hold here for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times per day.
7. The Cat-Cow Stretch
This yoga stretch is excellent for stretching out the back and entire core. It also helps you become more conscious about your alignment. When you’re more aware of your posture, you will be more likely to fix it in everyday situations.
- Start on all-fours.
- Gently arch your back up, pulling your belly in and dropping your head in between your arms.
- Pause, then gently arch your back down and bring your head and gaze up.
- Pause again. Go back and forth between these two poses for a total of 10 repetitions. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
- For an additional postural awareness boost, consider pausing in between these two poses at your neutral spine and becoming more aware of what that feels like.
We have given you the health help tools to improve your posture. It’s up to you to follow through and make a conscious decision to find the time to complete the above exercises. They only take 5-10 minutes each day - that’s less than 1% of your day!
If you have trouble finding the time, try doing these exercises every second day, or just pick one or two. It’s better than not doing anything at all.
Avoid common aches and pains. Take care of your body and in turn, your health. Improve your well-being one small habit change at a time. Quit hunching forward and straighten up!
Related Article: Is Carrying Your Bag Ruining Your Posture?