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Home/Blog/Want to Improve Your Posture? Do These 8 Exercises and Stretches

Want to Improve Your Posture? Do These 8 Exercises and Stretches

By Ethan Boldt

October 16, 2023

Posture exercises

Do you sit at a desk or table much of the day? Do you spend a fair amount of time on your smartphone each day? Are you feeling stressed?

Most of us answer “yes” to at least one of those questions, if not all. As a result, we also likely have bad posture to a certain extent. Bad posture doesn’t look very good but it also can lead to certain physical issues and health problems over time if it’s not addressed — mood, breathing, headaches, fatigue, circulation, even constipation.

For example, forward head posture has become all too common, with “text neck” developing over time because of so many hours peering down at one’s smartphone. When you’re hunched over, your back, neck and shoulders become misaligned, causing a ripple effect that impacts many aspects of your health.

Thankfully, there are easy ways to improve your posture. See the simple posture exercises and stretches below that you can do daily. Also make a few simple changes to your work and home environment to ensure better posture.

Signs of Bad Posture

Bad posture is all too common these days, particularly with most people needing to work on their computers at a desk and/or using the smartphones for hours a day. Developing forward head posture, for example, means that every time we lean forward 60 degrees, the stress on our necks is increased by approximately 60 pounds.

Here are the most common signs of bad posture:

  • Forward head posture (text neck): The head appears to be position forward, in front of the shoulders, and causes neck strain.

  • Rounded shoulders: Common among office workers, the shoulders may hunch forward and become tight and shorter over time. Can also occur among gym goers who overemphasize chest exercises compared to back training.

  • Hunched back: This occurs when the entire upper back hunches rather than just the shoulders. Can most often be seen among younger people who may have poor self-esteem or feel they’re too tall.

  • A tilted or forward leaning pelvis: This can cause the lower back to arch too much and result in tight hip flexors, which run from the lower back into the front of the hip. This may cause issues with both the upper and lower back.

  • Slouching: When sitting with a rounded back while watching TV or reading, for example, can lead to poor postural muscles and core weakness.

  • Tension headaches: Poor posture can mean muscle tension in the neck and shoulder area, and sometimes this results in headaches.

  • Lung capacity issues: Slouching can affect our ability to expand our lungs.

  • Gut issues: The digestive organs do get compressed by poor posture.

  • Fatigue: Over time, poor posture does necessitate more energy and potentially create more fatigue.

  • Less confidence: Poor posture may affect how others look at you and can also either reflect or even create poor self-esteem. Slouched posture can impact your self-esteem and how you are perceived by others.

Causes

Poor posture has been around since before the smartphone. Here’s the most common causes:

  • Laptop and phone use: Constantly looking down at one’s computer or smart device can create “text neck” and create shoulder and neck tension.

  • Backpacks: An overuse of backpacks can cause forward head posture over time.

  • Trauma: Bad posture such as forward head posture can come in the form of car accidents, slips or falls.

  • Imbalanced or weak muscles: if your back, core and/or shoulder muscles are weak, it can be challenging to maintain proper posture. At the same time, having a tight, strong chest versus a weak upper back can mean rounded shoulders and hunching tendencies.

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Spending too much time sitting at a desk, watching TV or reading/studying in bed can result in poor posture.

  • Poor ergonomics: A workspace without a monitor at head level or a chair that’s not adjusted properly can also lead to bad posture.

  • Getting older: As we age, our discs and muscles may naturally degenerate and may result in posture problems.

Best Stretches for Posture

Improving your posture through stretches can help alleviate muscle tension and promote better alignment of the spine, hips, shoulders, neck and head. Remember to perform these stretches regularly, ideally daily, to see improvements in your posture.

To support posture, reduce neck pain and improve shoulder pain, you can always incorporate stretches and posture exercises. These exercises include:

1. Arm circles

Standing, put your arms straight out so you form a T. Do mini-circles in one direction for 40 reps, then reverse directions and do another 40.

2. Chest opener stretch

Still standing, claps your hands behind your back. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your arms slightly. Hold for 20 seconds.

3. Shoulder and chest stretch

Stand in a doorway with your elbows and forearms resting on the door frame. Gently lean forward to feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold for 20 seconds.

4. Neck stretches

Tilt your head to the side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Gently hold your head to increase the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds on each side.

5. Thoracic extension stretch

Sit or stand up straight. Place your hands behind your head. Gently arch your upper back to look up toward the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds.

6. Cat and cow

Start on your hands and knees on a padded surface. Press through your palms as you round your upper back. Draw your chin to your chest as you widen your upper back into cat pose. Then, draw your belly button down towards the floor as you draw your shoulder blades together to come into cow pose. Move back and forth between these two poses 10 times.

7. Reclined spinal twist

Lie on your back with your leg extended straight on the floor. Draw your right knee toward your chest. Scoot your hips to the right and let your right knee fall to the left. Extend your right arm out to the right. Allow your body to relax into the twist. Hold this pose for one minute, then switch sides.

8. Hip flexor stretch

Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front. Gently push your hips forward, keeping your back straight. Hold for 20 seconds on each side.

It’s also key to use good posture during your day and prevent developing poor postural habits. Strengthening your core and back can also help. Consider consulting a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance.

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