How to Improve Your Posture
Can't stop slouching? Experts weigh in on how to decrease pain, feel more alert, and even sleep better. Follow these small but impactful steps.
1 Get Moving
The human body wasn’t made to sit for hours on end, says William Smith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and coauthor of Exercises for Perfect Posture. To combat the pain, set reminders to stretch or walk every half hour for several minutes. Moving around helps blood circulate, bringing oxygen and nutrients to muscles and helping wash away some of the substances that cause soreness. This can improve mobility and strength in parts of the body that help with posture. Check with your employer about a company ergonomist, who might be able to troubleshoot your desk setup or switch you to an adjustable desk. You can also head to osha.gov and search “ergonomics” for tips.
2 Practice Breathing
Posture isn’t really about forcing your shoulders back, says Jill Miller, creator of the fitness method Yoga Tune Up and author of [tempo-ecommerce src="https://www.amazon.com/Roll-Model-Step-Step-Mobility/dp/1628600225" rel="sponsored" target="_blank">. It’s about helping your spine find its most efficient shape. Force shouldn’t be part of the equation. Your skull should rest over your rib cage, directly above your heart, creating a gentle wave in your spine. An easy way to fix your posture is to pay attention to your breathing: For you to take truly deep breaths, your spine must be in proper alignment, with your ribs moving together with your breathing muscles. As you breathe in, visualize sending the breath toward your stomach, then expanding it into your chest.
3 Stretch It Out
When the chest and neck muscles are too tight, they contribute to hunching, says Miller. Try this stretch: Interlace your fingers behind your head, resting them on the base of your skull. Broaden your chest as you arch your upper back, gently pulling your elbows backward and gazing at the ceiling. Or relieve neck tension with a small tennis or massage ball: Lean forward slightly and rest the ball between a solid surface (a doorjamb works well) and the spot above your collarbone and below your shoulder. Knead the ball into the muscle, then switch sides. As always, don’t forget to take deep breaths.
RELATED: 6 Full-Body Stretching Exercises
4 Choose the Right Pillow
An unsupportive pillow can cause neck pain and possibly play a role in poor posture, says Rebecca Robbins, PhD, coauthor of Sleep for Success. Stomach sleepers might find they don’t need a pillow, since this position can help keep the body aligned. Back and side sleepers may want to use a pillow to fill the space between the shoulder and neck. (When you sleep on your side, your shoulder can be compressed by your body weight, straining your neck.) Since side sleepers have the largest gap to fill, they’ll typically need the thickest pillow. No matter your sleep position, some of the most posture-friendly pillows are high-loft down-feather ones that conform to the body.