Have you been trying for years to improve your posture, finding that every time you try to make a permanent change, you default back to old slouching habits? Make it a point to improve your posture so you can begin to reap the health benefits.
A healthy back has three natural curves, and good posture helps keep these natural curves:
- An inward curve at the neck
- An outward curve at the upper back
- An inward curve at the lower back
“When we slouch, it causes a tightening of the muscles in the front of the chest and a prolonged stretch on the upper back muscles,” says Nicole Marquardt, Physical Therapy. “This potentially causes pain or burning in upper back and neck muscles as well as impairing the mechanics of the shoulder.”
Good posture takes strain off your joints and muscles, preventing aches and pains. Unfortunately, bad posture can cause long term health effects.
“Long-term, poor posture can lead to shoulder pain, neck and upper back aches, headaches and decreased respiratory function due to impact on lung capacity,” says Marquardt.
We all know the tips for better posture: stand up straight, hold your chest high and keep your shoulders back. Actually practicing these tips, however, comes much more challenging to some. Follow this advice to make the change a smooth one:
1. Build your core strength and stretch.
A strong core is a key component in having good posture. Your core supports your upper body, which gives you more strength to hold yourself up. Core exercises can help build these muscles.
Yoga is a more relaxing way to build your core strength. Yoga also can improve your balance, flexibility and range of motion, all of which can contribute to better posture.
Take a few minutes out of your day to stretch as well.
2. Download posture apps for your smart phone.
Look for smart phone or tablet apps that provide you strength exercises, as well as stretches for neck, back, shoulder and spine flexibility. Some of these apps offer options to view different posture techniques and set reminders to correct yours.
Sitting for long periods of time each day increases your risk for worse posture and health complications. There are posture apps that remind you to take breaks throughout the work day and stand up, stretch or walk around.
But don’t spend too much time staring at your phone or tablet. Poor posture from looking down at your mobile devices can strain your neck muscles. Practicing this simple exercise can be helpful to cure “smartphone neck.”
3. Constantly remind yourself.
Put a post-it note on the top of your computer screen at work and your mirrors at home. Ask your friends to remind you whenever you see them. Tape some photos on your refrigerator of how unattractive slouching looks to give you motivation to keep it up. Wherever you spend your time throughout the day, make sure you are reminded!
Every time you practice better posture, you are teaching your body to learn how to stand up straight. Repetition will help your body get away from slouching.