How to improve posture through simple exercises and stay healthy.
If you’ve been increasingly experiencing muscle spasms or back pain, then your posture is to be blamed, or the pandemic forcing us to live through endless home office hours without proper physical activity. However, good posture is more than just standing straight and looking prim and proper. It helps you develop flexibility, strength, and balance.
On the other hand, bad posture escalates both physical and mental stress1. Long-term muscle tension results in physical pain, which ends up causing mental stress. In this tutorial, we will discuss the essentials you need to know about developing good posture and how to improve posture through simple exercises. For work, leisure, and lazy times.
How To Improve Posture – Overview
To understand good posture, let’s understand bad posture first. A bad posture, also known as postural dysfunction, is when your spine is positioned unnaturally where your curves are emphasized. This results in certain muscles tightening up while the others expand. In the long-term, a bad posture can lead to pain, muscle weakness, injury, spasm, fatigue, and other health issues.
The key to developing good posture is the position of your spine. Our spines are naturally curved and have three natural curves at your neck, mid-back, and lower back. We need to maintain the curves without increasing them.
There are two major types of posture:
- Dynamic posture: how you hold yourself while walking.
- Status posture: how you hold yourself while standing or sitting.
By maintaining a good dynamic and static posture, you can reduce the probability of muscle pain and RSI (repetitive strain injury). Below, we will discuss the core strategies on how to improve posture. To warm up, here are 4 quick tips you can apply immediately.
Improve Your Posture – Quick Tips
We don't pay much attention to how we stand, but it can make a big difference to our posture. To stand tall and straight, keep a few simple things in mind:
- Stand straight with shoulders pulled back (slightly).
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart with the weight mostly on the balls of your feet.
- Your knees should be slightly bent, stomach tucked in, and your head balanced and not bent forward.
If you’re going to be standing in one position for a while, then keep shifting your weight from one foot to the other.
Sitting is another posture we maintain a lot during the day. Here are a few things to ensure that you’re maintaining and developing a good posture:
- Sit straight with relaxed shoulders, not hunched nor rounded.
- While sitting in the chair, ensure your feet are grounded. Avoid crossing your legs.
- Sit back in the chair to support your spine and keep your knees at level or slightly higher than your hips.
- Keep your head positioned in such a way that your ears are aligned with your shoulders and your head and chin don’t sit back from them.
- If you’re using a computer, keep the screen at eye level to avoid neck or eye strain.
Every time we talk about health, staying active always makes the list. Holding on to the same position for long, even if you’re maintaining good posture, can cause strain to your muscles. In a bad posture, the effects can be even worse.
To prevent that, make sure that you don’t sit in one place for too long. Get up, stretch, and walk around for a few minutes at least. If you keep forgetting to get up, set a reminder because your health should always come first.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for improving your posture. It doesn’t mean being paper-thin, or overweight. A healthy weight means having a BMI2 of between 18.5-24.9. If it falls below 18.5, you’re underweight, and above 24.9, you’re within the obese range.
Obesity can cause quite a few problems with your posture. Extra weight can cause issues with your spine and pelvis along with weakening your abdominal muscles and contributing to low back pain.
Reading tips: Typing software often teaches you how to develop good posture, ergonomics, and offers tips to prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury) while learning to type more effectively. Typesy and KAZ are recommended tutors here.
How To Develop Good Posture – Core Strategies
Improving posture is not a one-time thing. You have to start somewhere and improve along the way. In this section, we will give you a few core strategies on how to improve posture.
1. How To Improve Posture While Standing
We spend most of our lives standing or walking, and that’s where we start improving our posture. Follow the step-by-step instructions on how to stand tall:
- Stand with your back to a wall or a door.
- Start with your feet and plant them shoulder-width apart.
- Try sliding your hand behind your back a little bit. If you can’t, arch your back a little so you can.
- Now, move away from the wall/door and hold the position. Put your head back, tuck in your chin and pull the abdominals in. Your body will automatically fall into the correct posture.
Here’s how it works. When your head is back and your chin is tucked in, your chest will automatically come out front, and your shoulders will fall back. It's a simple three-step formula, head back, chin tucked in, and abs in. Move back to the wall and see how the wall guides your body to achieve the same posture.
2. How To Improve Posture While Walking
Once you have established a good posture while standing, walking is the next challenge. We'll divide the walking and standing part of improving posture into three parts:
Feet Position – While you're standing, put your weight forward at the balls of your feet. If you put weight on the heels, your body will be in a slouchy position.
Walking – Walking is a bit tricky because you don't just have to maintain your posture but also stay focused on the surroundings. However, to make it simple, when you're walking, suppose you have a book balanced on top of your head. That will do two things, keep your back straight and your head up.
If you're having difficulty with imagination, then put a real book on top of your head, and try walking around for a while. That should put things into perspective!
Footwear – Good posture starts with your feet, which is why you need footwear that’s comfortable and supportive! Make sure that your shoes have paddings to hold you upright and have good arch support. Paddings are especially helpful if you will be standing or walking for a long time.
In the end, no one can deny the glam high heels add, but they can also change your body’s alignment. Avoid high heels for a good body posture.
3. How To Improve Posture While Sitting
As our lives revolve more and more around screens, we spend a major part of our day sitting in one place. Especially for people who spend hours working on the computer, it’s difficult to move around a lot, making maintaining the right posture even more critical. Here are a few tips on how to improve posture and ergonomics while sitting:
- Switch your sitting position and do it frequently.
- Take a stroll. Walks are great to clear your head and get the blood flowing.
- Find a healthy sitting position and don’t cross your legs. Make sure that your feet are on the ground with the ankles in front of your knees.
- Use a footrest, simple and effective. Also, ensure that your seat is well-padded to support your thighs and hips.
- Relax your shoulders, they shouldn’t be hunched, pulled back, or rounded.
- Keep your elbows close to the body and bent at about 90 to 120 degrees.
- Put your comfort first and make sure that your back is fully supported when you're sitting. Use a pillow or something else to support your back if your chair doesn’t have a backrest.
4. How To Improve Posture While Sleeping
Do you know? Humans spend about one-third of their lives sleeping! Naturally, you can also work on improving body posture while sleeping. Here are a few simple tips:
Use as many pillows as you want to support your back or anywhere there’s space between the mattress and your body. Regardless of your sleeping position, pillows can add extra support. If you’re sleeping on your back, put a pillow under your knees and if you’re on your stomach, which is not a good position, put one under your stomach.
Sleeping without a pillow or with a flat pillow can keep your head flat, which reduces stress on your neck and provides better alignment. We’re all used to sleeping with a pillow under the head, but it’s not exactly ideal. However, no pillow is not always ideal. It’s better to use a pillow if you’re sleeping on your side or back.
The mattress makes all the difference. If you have trouble finding the perfect mattress, stick with the one you like. Your body is perfectly capable of finding the right mattress for itself, so trust and get one that lets you rest comfortably and wake up fresh and pain-free.
Turn your body as one unit when lying in bed and avoid turning at your waist. Whichever position you take, keep your back straight and muscles tight.
5. How To Improve Posture via Exercise
Bad sitting and standing habits can create a lot of muscle stress over the years. It’s something we’re not even aware of that ends up causing muscle and back pain. Exercise can help relieve muscle pain and improve your body posture. However, it will feel awkward and painful at first. Let’s explore a few simple exercises and let the journey begin!
Start with a simple resting position like the child’s pose. It relieves neck and back pain and releases muscle tension by stretching and lengthening your spine, gluteus, and hamstrings.
Here’s how you do a child’s pose:
- Sit on your tibia with your knees together, your big toes touching, and your heels on the side.
- Fold forward at your hips. Extend your arms straight out in front or rest them along the body.
- Sink your hips towards your feet, and use a pillow if your thighs don’t go all the way down.
- Place your forehead on the ground gently.
- Breathe deeply into your stomach and rib cage and relax for up to five minutes.
The second exercise is a standing one called forward fold. It stretches and releases tension from your spine hamstrings, and glutes. Let’s see how you do it:
- Stand tall with your heels slightly apart and big toes touching.
- Exhale and bend forward at the hips.
- Let your hands drop to the ground and reach as far as they can. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be touching the ground.
- Bend your knees slightly while softening the hip joints, and let your spine expand.
- Tuck in your chin and let your head drop heavily to the floor.
- Hold the forward fold for up to one minute.
The cat cow pose helps relieve tension from your torso, neck, and shoulders. It stretches and massages your spine while promoting blood circulation. To do the cat cow pose:
- Come down on your hands and knees with your weight distributed evenly between the four.
- Inhale and look up while dropping your abdomen slightly to down to the ground and extend your spine.
- Exhale as you tuck in your chin and arch your spine towards the ceiling.
- Continue the cat cow movement for at least one minute.
Additional Tips To Improve Posture
We’ve discussed standing, walking, sitting, and sleeping postures, but there’s much more to life than that! For example, most people spend at least an hour of every day commuting to and from work and other places.
On the other hand, most people get muscle and back pain because they lift and carry things the wrong way. So, how to improve posture and the ergonomics of driving, lifting, and carrying. Here are some additional tips.
Posture While Driving
To maintain good posture while driving, you need to adjust your seat to maintain a proper distance from both the steering wheel and pedals. If you’re leaning forward, reaching for the wheel, or pointing your toes at the pedal, then you’re too far away. Whereas, if you’re hunched forward with your chin over the steering wheel, then you’re too close.
While driving, sit against the seat for proper back support and keep the headrest to support the middle part of your head. Your seat should be positioned in such a way that you’re neither leaning nor reaching.
Posture While Lifting or Carrying
Maintaining the correct posture while lifting or carrying something is critical. Most back and neck pains start from lifting or carrying something wrong. When you’re lifting something off the ground heavier than a cat, then bend your body from the knees, not your waist. Your stomach and leg muscles are designed to take the weight, but your back is not.
How To Improve Posture – Summary
Wrapping up our tutorial on how to improve posture. The reason behind a bad posture is tense muscles that pull your body out of alignment. Despite posture being physical, it affects our mental and physical health as a sound mind is in a sound body. There’s always hope if you’re willing to give it a try!
Correcting your posture takes a lot of time, practice, and sore muscles. As your body adjusts to the correct positions after doing it wrong for so long, then there will be struggle and pain. Since there’s no gain without pain, make sure to give it your best.
Start by correcting your posture while standing, sitting, walking, or sleeping, and also give the posture exercises a go. Over time, you can not only improve your posture but also your health, both physical and mental!
What are the best techniques to improve posture? Let us know the tips and tricks you apply to develop good posture and what you do when you experience pain or discomfort from bad posture.
Disclosure: I'm not a physiotherapist, doctor, or medical professional. This tutorial tries to cover the essentials to help you improve posture. It does not provide any medical advice. If you have physical pain or experience problems with your back, spine, or muscles, we strongly recommend consulting a doctor for diagnosis and professional treatment.