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Simple Exercises to Improve your Posture

A good posture is the foundation of good movement pattern, health and fitness. Without a state of balance in your body kinetic system, it is impossible for you to reach your full potential in daily activities, joint flexibility, muscles strength and endurance or even performance in sport. Additionally, good posture lowers the risk of getting injury and prevents muscles fatigue as well as suffering from chronic pain.

How is your posture?

You must recognize your postural habit while standing, sitting or walking so that you can correct them if necessary. A good standing posture is reflective of your ears being in line with your shoulders, your hips with your knees, and your knees with your ankles. If you’re seated,your ears and hips should be aligned.

 

According to Cleveland Clinic, it is important to learn and practice proper posture for good health.  Hence, it is always advisable to include some postural correction exercises and stretches in your workout routine. Here, we highlight some exercises and stretches that address the postural issues:

**Perform the exercises and stretches listed below 2-3 times a week for approximately 15-20 minutes.

Issue #1: “Forward Head”

If you have good posture, your earlobe should always align with your shoulder and your cheek bone should align with your collar bone. When your head is turned further away from its base of support (cervical spine), it becomes heavier and place more strain to your side neck muscles. Over time, the muscles of the front and side of your neck will tense up and fatigue. Your rear neck muscles will get weaker.

 

Exercise: Head Retraction

 

 

A good exercise to correct your neck posture is retraction of “forward head”. Tuck in your chin as if you are making a double chin.  You should feel a nice stretch at the back on your neck. Think about how often do you place your head on headrest when you are driving or working in front of your desk?  Practice this exercise when you are waiting in front of traffic light or sitting in front of your desk. Hold for 1-2 seconds; perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

 

Issue #2: Rounded Shoulders

 

Our human body is not designed for prolonged hours of hunching forward in front of the computer. In this position, your chest muscles will get tighter and your upper back muscles will become weaker. This explains why you feel sore or even experience pain around your neck, shoulders and upper back at the end of the day.

Exercise: Floor/Physioball “YTW”

Lie with your stomach on a physioball.  Next, put your thumbs up and extend your arms out to form a letter “Y”. Start with your arm lower than your torso, squeeze your shoulder blade and bring your arm up overhead to form a letter “Y”. Repeat the same exercise with your arm extended to the side to form a letter “T” and elbows bent to form a letter “W”. If you do not have a physioball, do the same exercises on the floor. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions using good form and technique.

Stretch: Chest Stretch

Standing or sitting with your fingers interlaced behind your back.  Keep your chest up and shoulders away from your ears. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your arm up toward the ceiling. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest.  Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15-20 seconds. Issue #3: Poor Core Strength Core muscles include the abdominal, lower back and hip muscles. Strong core muscles are the foundation of proper posture. It supports your spine and lifts your body upright.

 

Exercise: Plank

The simplest core exercise that recruit all these muscle groups will be the ‘plank’. Lying facing down, place your elbows directly under your shoulder. Bring your toes closer to your shin.  When you exhale, use your hips to lift your body up to form a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold for 30 seconds and eventually progress to 1 minute.

 

Issue#4:  Pelvic tilts (Anterior/posterior)

Pelvic tilt in anatomy refers to the orientation of the pelvis in respect to the femurs it rests upon and in space.

Issue #4a: Anterior pelvic tilt

The most common postural abnormality around the hip area is lordosis where hips bone are overly tilting forward and forming exaggerated forward curvature on the lower back. This is caused by weakness in the hamstring and abdominal muscles and tightness in the hip flexors and lower back muscles. One of the consequences of this poor posture is chronic lower back pain. This is commonly observed for people that are spending most of their time sitting in front of desk or driving. The corrective exercises for this abnormality are bridge and hip flexor stretch.

Exercise: Bridge

A bridge exercise strengthens your hamstring and gluteus muscles and increases the mobility on your hip joint. Lie down facing up with your knee bent and hip width apart.  Squeeze your gluteus muscles and lift your hip up to create a straight line from your shoulder to knee. Hold for 60 seconds. You can progress to single leg bridge when you are able to hold up to 60 seconds on double legs bridge.

Stretch: Hip Flexor Stretch

Start with a half kneeling lunge position with both knees bent 90 degrees. Slowly lunge forward to stretch the hip flexor of your back leg.  Hold stretch for a minimum of 15-20 seconds. Issue #4b: Posterior pelvic tilt

Another common postural deviation around hip area is when your hamstring is tight, your hip bones tend to tilt backwards.  Your lower back is flattened and there is only little or no curvature on your lumbar spine. This position puts excessive strain to lumbar spine and might cause lower back pain in long term.

Stretch: Hamstring Stretch        

                                                                                                                                 

Lying on your back, hugs one of your knees toward your chest. Start with your knee bent.  Attempt to straighten your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch behind your tight.  Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15-20 seconds

 

Besides exercises, here are more additional tips for good posture when you are sitting, standing or even walking:

  1. Always keep shoulders away from ears, shoulder blades back and down toward spine.
  2. Keep your chest up.
  3. Draw your tummy in and up.
  4. Keep your ears aligned with your shoulders.
  5. Keep your knees below or parallel as the hip while sitting.
  6. Avoid crossing your legs while you are sitting & keep your ankles in front of your knees.

Most people are struggling to maintain a good posture. Poor posture developed overtime and there is not magic pill to fix it quickly. With practice, your good posture will gradually replace your old posture. With a healthier body position, you will definitely look younger and feel more confident.

Reference:

1. American Council on Exercise (ACE). 2003. Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. 4th ed. ACE: San Diego, CA.

2. Spark People http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1407&page=4

3. Core Performance  http://www.coreperformance.com/daily/one-small-change/the-better-posture-workout.html

4. LiveStrong  http://www.livestrong.com/article/328067-good-posture-tips/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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