Improving Posture: Top 5 Exercises to Get You Standing Straight
Have you been experiencing constant backaches and neck pain along with fatigue and low energy levels? Poor posture could be the root of all these problems. While good posture is essential for spinal health, not many people make it a priority. In this article, we delve into why posture is important, review the pros and cons of good posture, identify what affects our posture, and provide a list of the top 5 exercises to improve posture.
Why Posture is Important
Posture refers to the position of your spine when you’re standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture helps keep your bones and joints in the right alignment leading to the correct usage of muscles. Research indicates that good posture helps to;
- Improve circulation by making it easier for the blood to move around.
- Increase energy levels through minimized muscle fatigue and tension.
- Boost emotional health and wellbeing linked to stress reduction and self-confidence.
- Enhance breathing and lung capacity by having room for the lungs to expand making it easier to breathe.
- Enhance digestion systems by ensuring that organs sit in their natural positions.
- Enhance brain functions as it allows for proper blood flow consequently improving cognitive abilities.
The Pros and Cons of Good Posture
- Good posture helps keep your spine straight, which reduces the risk of degenerative spinal conditions such as spinal osteoporosis, herniated discs, and arthritis.
- Improves lung function, which is essential for individuals with respiratory issues such as asthma.
- Helps maintain proper body balance conducive to good coordination.
- Helps prevent muscular fatigue and tension as well as back stiffness, leading to better mobility and flexibility.
- Poor posture strains the spinal canal, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, and ankles leading to a condition known as kyphosis.
- Imbalances in the body’s muscles caused by poor posture lead to limited mobility, poor flexibility, and eventually, back pain.
- Poor posture affects your appearance tremendously, leading to an unconfident and weak outward look.
What Affects Your Posture
There are several factors that may affect your posture, including:
1. Sitting position – Working in a seated position for extended periods without getting up and moving around can cause pressure on your spinal discs.
2. Sleep position – Sleeping in awkward positions with your neck twisted in odd angles or on an unsupportive mattress will lead to the development of poor posture.
3. Footwear – Unsupportive shoes such as high heels and ill-fitting shoes increase the risk of back pain, lumbar disc disease, and disc herniation leading to poor posture.
4. Genetics – Genetic factors such as spinal curvatures or irregularities can lead to poor posture.
5. Muscle imbalances – If certain muscle groups develop more strength and bulk than others, it leads to imbalances in muscle tension causing misalignments in the body.
Top 5 Exercises to Improve Your Posture
1. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Targets: Shoulder blades, mid and upper back
- Sit or stand straight with your arms at your sides.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, pause for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Secondly, bring your arms forward so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees and your hands are at shoulder height.
- Slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, gently pushing your arms forward, then slowly release.
Repeat 10-15 times.
2. Wall Angels
Targets: Lower back, shoulders, and neck
- Stand with your back facing a wall and stand with your shoulders against the wall.
- Slowly bring your arms up to a 90-degree angle with your palms facing outwards and elbows bent.
- Gently move your arms above your head, carefully keeping in contact with the wall.
- Once your arms are above your head, pause and then slowly lower them back down.
- Repeat this exercise for 10-15 reps.
Targets: Back and spine
- Get on all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders.
- Take a deep breath, expanding your chest, and round your back up towards the ceiling.
- Repeat this move 5-10 times.
- Then take another deep breath, and arch your back while bringing your gaze up towards the ceiling.
- Repeat this move 5-10 times.
4. Hip Flexor Stretch
Targets: Hips and lower back
- Start in a lunge position with your left foot forward and left knee bent.
- With your right knee down, place both hands on your left thigh and stretch down towards the floor.
- Keep stretching until you feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds and then switch sides.
5. Forward-Facing Plank
Targets: Core muscles and spinal stability
- Lie face down, placing your forearms on the ground at a 90-degree angle.
- Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
- Push up until your forearms and toes are carrying the weight of the body, and your body is straight like a plank.
- Hold for up to a minute, ensuring that your stomach, back, and glutes are tensed and your head is neutral.
How Long Does it Take to Fix Your Posture
The amount of time it takes to fix your posture depends on several factors such as the level of poor posture, age, muscles' flexibility, and the amount of work put into the recommended exercises. With consistent exercises, it can take anywhere between 8-12 weeks of persistent work to see noticeable results.
Having good posture is essential to spinal health, physical energy levels, emotional well-being, and cognitive abilities. The pros of good posture far outweigh the cons, making it a worthwhile goal to pursue. Improving posture directly improves the health of your spine, making day-to-day living much less painful. The top 5 exercises above are an excellent starting point to achieve better posture. Take the time to work on good posture today, and you'll reap the benefits for years to come.