Poor posture is an epidemic in Western countries. The reason? People spend too much of their day sitting in a chair, and often sit in a hunched-over posture. Such alignment does your back, neck, and posture no favors. Growing rates of obesity, especially abdominal obesity, is another factor that contributes to poor posture. When you carry too much tummy fat, it shifts your center of gravity forward and throws off your body’s alignment. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have lordosis, a spine that curves too much inward, due to excess tummy fat shifting the center of gravity forward.
Why should you concern yourself with posture? Bad alignment contributes to back pain, neck pain, and places added stress on your joints. Plus, it’s an aesthetic issue since poor posture can make your tummy look more prominent and your shoulders rounded. Don’t forget about the shoes you wear either! If your favorite shoes have a three-inch heel, you’re shifting your weight onto the balls of feet and unnaturally altering your body alignment. People who wear high heels often have excessive back curvature that places added stress on the back, not to mention their feet.
So, what can you do to correct bad posture once you know you have it? Less sitting and more physical activity helps. In fact, certain exercises may give your posture a boost. Here are some of the best exercises for improving your posture.
One thing many people with poor posture have in common is weak core muscles. Strong core muscles are a prerequisite for healthy posture. The plank is an isometric exercise that strengthens the muscles that make up your core. As you strengthen your core muscles with planks, you’ll find you naturally hold your body in better alignment. The beauty of planks is it’s an exercise that works your entire body from your legs to your shoulder girdle in an isometric manner. Plus, there are lots of plank variations to make the exercise more challenging.
Another isometric exercise that will strengthen your core muscles and lead to better posture is the bridge, an exercise many people do for glute development. Here’s how to do one:
- Lie on a mat with bent knees and feet flat on the floor.
- With good control, push your hips up toward the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds.
- Lower your body back down
You get multiple benefits from bridges since it’s an excellent exercise for strengthening your glutes, especially if you squeeze and hold at the top of the movement. However, you also strengthen muscles in your back, including those that stabilize your spine and that helps you maintain proper posture and lower your risk of back pain.
The deadlift is a total body exercise and one that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. What few people realize is that deadlifts can also improve your posture. They do this by strengthening the larger muscles in your back and the smaller muscles that support your spine. There are many reasons to include the deadlift in your routine and better posture is one of them.
Quadruped Hip Extensions
Quadruped hip extensions work the muscles in your lower back and glutes, along with your deep abdominal muscles, the ones you don’t work when you do sit-ups and abdominal crunches. When these muscles are strong, you have better posture. Here’s how to do one:
- Get down on your hands and knees on a mat with hands at the level of your shoulders.
- Shift your weight toward your left side without rotating your hips or shoulders and elevate your right foot toward the ceiling as you hold your knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Lower your right knee and foot back toward the floor.
- Just before reaching the starting point, repeat the movement by lifting your foot up again to do a second repetition.
- Keep repeating until you’ve completed 10 repetitions on that side.
- Now, switch sides and do the same with the opposite knee and leg.
As a bonus, studies show incorporating quadruped hip extensions and other exercises that strengthen the glutes, stabilizing muscles of the back, and deep abdominal muscles lower the risk of back pain. The most important thing to remember when doing this exercise is to not twist your body when you raise your knee on each side. Also, don’t let your neck or back sag or arch when you do the movement.
You might already be familiar with child’s pose from yoga, as it’s a basic move. Doing child’s pose helps improve posture by lengthening the muscles in your back, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles become tight when you sit too long. Here’s how to do one:
- Sit on a mat with your shinbones touching the surface of the mat and your knees together.
- Walk your hands out in front of your body while letting your hips rest on your feet.
- Feel the stretch as you breathe deeply and hold this position.
- Work up to holding the stretch for five minutes.
Child’s pose is a wonderful way to lengthen your muscles and calm your mind after a workout too.
Other Ways to Improve Posture
Be more aware of your body alignment. Imagine how you stand when your doctor measures your height and try to mimic that when you’re standing. Likewise, don’t slouch when you sit in a chair. Get up and move around more frequently when you have to sit. When you sit in the same position for long periods, your muscles fatigue, and your body will tend to slouch. Get up and move around so you can “reset” your posture when you sit back down.
The Bottom Line
Now you know what you can do to improve your posture and lower your risk of back and neck pain due to poor alignment. Why not include these five exercises in your fitness routine to help improve your alignment?
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