The below article first appeared on the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Website on Mar 25, 2019.
Did you know that good posture helps minimize stress on tendons, joints and ligaments? Plus, better posture can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Good posture may improve your job prospects, verbal communication, self-confidence and mood and enhance how others see you.
Ryan Halvorson, chief content officer for Fit Scribe Media and a TriggerPoint® master trainer, explains exercises that can help you improve posture.
5 Key Exercises
These easy-to-implement, equipment-free exercises can help you achieve an instant postural adjustment. The moves can be done seated, but standing yields the best results.
Tight chest muscles can make it difficult to pull your shoulders back and down. One way to overcome this is to increase tissue mobility through self-massage.
Begin by rolling the shoulders back and down. Make a fist with the right hand and gently press the knuckles into the left pectoral muscle next to the sternum. Place the palm of the left hand on top of the fist for added pressure. Slowly drive the knuckles across the muscle toward the shoulder joint. Lift the hand, returning it to the starting position, and repeat.
Shoulder External Rotations
Internal rotation is a common problem. External rotation can help. Roll the shoulders back and down. Tuck the pelvis slightly to maintain a neutral lower-back position throughout the exercise. Slowly twist the wrists until the thumbs point away from the body. Hold for a few seconds and release; repeat.
This exercise stretches the muscles of the neck, allowing the skull to return to a more neutral, balanced position while the spine is lengthened. Stand with your hips and shoulders against a wall. Heels can be an inch or two away from the wall. Lifting through the crown of the head, gently bring the chin down toward the throat while pressing the back of the head against the wall for a few seconds. Rest and repeat. Place a pillow behind the head if the pressure is uncomfortable.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start in a kneeling lunge position (one knee on the floor and the other leg bent 90 degrees in front of you with foot flat). Lift from the crown of the head to elongate the spine. From here, drive the hip of the kneeling leg in a gentle thrusting pattern to achieve the stretch. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat. Perform the exercise several times for both hips. Place a pillow under the knee for added cushion.
Hip Hinge With Fly
This exercise improves your ability to extend your upper back. Place feet hip-width apart, and hinge at the hips while simultaneously angling the upper body forward. Aim to slightly arch the lower back by lifting the tailbone. Retract and depress the shoulder blades. Start with the arms extended and palms clasped together directly in front of the chest. Then slowly swing the arms out to the sides of the body at about shoulder height with a slight external shoulder rotation, and pause when you feel contraction in the upper posterior muscles and a stretch in the pectorals. Release and repeat.
Tech Tools Offer Posture Help
These tech tools and apps can help you sit up straight throughout the day.
Alex+ hooks onto the ears and rests on the neck at the base of the skull to assess head and neck position. The device vibrates if the head droops out of its optimal position—based on user settings—for longer than 2 minutes. You can also track progress through the Alex app (alexposture.com).
This device attaches to the small of the back to help you train the back muscles to hold proper alignment for extended periods of time. It will also vibrate if you slouch (uprightpose.com).
Worn on the wrist, the ZIKTO Walk helps maintain good posture when walking. Through a series of motion sensors, the device analyzes your walking patterns and vibrates gently if the wrist moves out of predetermined alignment parameters (zikto.com).
Using your smartphone, this work-break timer allows you to set alarms that remind you to take breaks throughout the day. Search for the free timer in the app store (raisedsquare.com/standup).