5 Ways to Improve Your Posture

Posture can be a tricky animal.  On the one hand, poor posture is not a emergency in the same way that, say, a broken arm requires an immediate trip to the hospital.  We can go about our day to day lives with poor posture, and in many cases we might not even notice.  Poor posture is particularly insidious because it is often developed over time due to years and years of poor habits.

That’s not to say that poor posture is not a big deal.  Going through life hunched over can affect your breathing and general well being.  It can affect your mood.  It can even impact the way that others perceive you in the workplace.  Maintaining good posture is important for healthy living, and thats what I am taking a closer look at how to improve posture today.

Because the body tends to adapt to the positions and movement patterns that it encounters most frequently, poor posture can be learned (and unlearned!).  It is part musculoskeletal, part neuromuscular and part mental.  It is really the confluence of pretty much every facet of the body.  Consequently, there is no one sort of training that can improve posture in itself.  Instead, I’ve personally found that a multi-faceted approach tends to work best.  Here are 5 techniques you can use to improve your posture, some of which you might not have thought of immediately.  In my opinion, it is worth trying them all!

Foam Rolling

When we talk about poor posture, we’re often talking about postural kyphosis, a head-forward posture that mimics the position that we commonly take in front of a computer monitor.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, kyphosis can often start at the hips, which form the baseline of the kinetic chain.  It then continues up the kinetic chain to the shoulders and neck.

Computer Hunch

Computer Hunch

A foam roller can be used to release muscles that become tight while sitting.  Start by using the foam roller to release the hip flexors.  Then, move up the kinetic chain to the upper back.

Strength Training

I’ve already written quite a bit about strength training as a means to improve posture.  In short, we want to strengthen the muscles that oppose movement patterns reinforced by computer work.  Typically, that means the primary muscles of the posterior kinetic chain including the glutes, lats and hamstrings.

Posterior Kinetic Chain

My favorite exercises for doing so are squats, deadlifts and pull ups.  However, there are all sorts of other exercises you might try, including rows, hamstring curls, glute bridges and even cleans for the more advanced lifters.

Meditation

This is an interesting one.  Many folks tend to focus only on the immediately visible, physical indicators of poor posture.  However, posture is also mental, and in some cases reinforced by tension and negative attitudes about ones self.

Meditation can help relieve anxiety and refocus your energy towards positive ends.  It can relax the body, which in turn relaxes the shoulders, allowing you to more naturally place your shoulder blades down and back.  Don’t ignore mental health as a critical component of overall health!

Stretching

Stretch the hip flexors!  Stretch the pectoral muscles!  Stretch your neck and back!  Stretch when you wake up.  Stretch before you go to bed!  Stretch at work!  Get up and stretch whenever you can!

Last week, I talked a bit about how the single most important factor in improving workplace health is to move around.  No fancy workout routine, ergonomic device, food supplement, meditation guru or medical procedure is a replacement for simply moving around more.  Getting up to stretch every few minutes is the single best thing you can do to improve your range of motion in the workplace, and therefore your learned movement patterns and posture.  Particularly, you want to focus on stretches that counteract movement patterns you are learning while not stretching:

Sleep (Well)

We spend roughly a third of a time on this planet sleeping.  Therefore, it makes sense consider the position in which you place your body while catching some z’s.  Many folks may sleep with too many pillows or in a position that actually counteracts the posture work that we are doing during the day.

Consider purchasing a firmer mattress and sleeping on your back.  Doing so will naturally reinforce a proper posture by aligning your head, neck, back, torso and legs.  After all, the ideal posture is essentially a position in which you can imagine a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.

In addition, by reducing the number of pillows you use, you may be able to avoid positioning your head awkwardly, or forward in a manner than mimics the head-forward position reinforced by computer work.

Conclusion

There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say, and posture work is no exception.  Give these various approaches a try, and see which ones work best for you.  Personally, I have adopted all of these.  Poor posture is developed over time, and therefore will not disappear over time.  However, by taking steps such as those outlined above, we can gradually improve our posture for healthier living.

 

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