Whether you hunch your shoulders when you walk or slump in your chair at work, it’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to your posture. The way you hold your body when you’re standing, sitting or moving around might not seem like a big deal, but over time, poor posture can do serious harm to your wellbeing, so it’s well worth making the effort to correct these problems.
Tackling bad posture can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first because your body will be used to standing and sitting in certain positions. But with a little practise, maintaining a healthy posture should become second nature. There are various simple stretches you can do to help this process too. So, if you think it’s time to improve the way you hold yourself, it’s worth giving these exercises a go.
Slouching in your seat
Lots of people slouch in their chairs without even realising it. Although this posture mistake doesn’t always cause discomfort right away, over time it can put added strain on soft tissues and already sensitised muscles - and this can lead to pain. The following stretches help you to strengthen areas of your body that make it easier for you to sit up straight.
Targeting the lower back and buttocks, bridges are an easy yet effective exercise to try. Simply lie on your back on the floor with your heels close to your bottom and your knees bent. Making sure your feet are roughly shoulder width apart, raise your hips to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. As you bring your hips up, tighten your buttocks and abs. Once you’ve achieved a straight line, gently lower yourself back to your starting position.
You should repeat this around 8 to 10 times. For best results, make sure you keep your chin slightly tucked in and don’t let your knees point outwards.
Working the lower, middle and upper back, these stretches are great for enhancing your seated posture. Start by lying on the floor face down, resting on your forearms and with your elbows bent at your sides. Keeping your neck straight, push down on your hands and arch your back - making sure you continue to look at the floor. Try to avoid the temptation to raise your head and look up.
You should notice a gentle stretching sensation in your back and stomach muscles. Breathe and then hold this position for around 5 to 10 seconds, before lowering yourself back to your starting position. Repeat this process 8 to 10 times, making sure you keep your hips on the floor throughout.
So-called ‘text neck’ is a sign of the times. It refers to the stooped position we tend to adopt when we’re focussing on our phones or tablets, or our laptop or desktop keyboards. Hunching over your devices like this can make you prone to having a rounded upper back, which in turn can lead to back and shoulder stiffness.
The good news is, there are a number of exercises you can do that should help to correct this hunched position.
Pull-ups are a great example. To do these stretches, you’ll need railings, a horizontal bar or a tree branch that you can hold onto at shoulder height. Get into position by standing right up to the railings, bar or branch - holding on with your hands at shoulder height and shoulder width apart. Place your feet so that they are directly below your hands and, keeping your body straight, extend your arms and lean back. To start the exercise, bend your arms (keeping them tucked into your body) and pull yourself towards the railings, bar or branch. Then return yourself to your extended position.
Repeat this action around 10 times, and if you want to increase the difficulty, move your feet forward so they are positioned underneath the railings, bar or branch.
For these exercises, stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart and your shoulders back and down. Next, interlock your fingers behind your back with your palms facing up. To do the move, draw your shoulders back and down, keeping your arms straight. Make sure you don’t arch your back while doing this. You should feel a stretch across the front of your shoulders and your chest.
This quick and easy stretch is something you can do wherever you are without feeling self-conscious.
If your knuckles face forwards when you let your arms hang naturally by your sides, the chances are you have rounded shoulders. This is generally a result of poor posture habits or muscle imbalances. You can try a number of exercises to remedy the problem, and stretches that help to strengthen your core, chest muscles and upper back tend to be the best.
Planking is ideal for building your core and back muscles. To do it, lie on your front and prop yourself up on your toes and forearms. Keep your legs straight and your hips raised, making sure you maintain a rigid and straight line across your body from your head to your toes. Keep your abs contracted during the plank, which you should try to hold for between 5 and 10 seconds.
Repeat the move 8 to 10 times, making sure that your lower back doesn’t sink and you keep looking at the floor. If you want an easier version of the plank, do the exercise with your knees on the floor.
The ‘Superman’ stretch is also effective at combatting rounded shoulders. To do this, lie face down with your stomach and hips pressed to the floor and your legs apart. Your toes should be pointing down and pressed to the floor. Then raise your arms behind your back, keeping them shoulder width apart and making sure your palms face inward. Reach your fingers in the direction of your toes as you lift your chest off the floor. Keep your eyes down so that your neck stays in line with your spine. Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower yourself and repeat the process 8 to 10 times.
These stretches take a matter of moments, and doing them regularly could make it much easier for you to improve your posture.
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