Better posture can not only make you look like you lost 5 pounds; it is important for so many reasons. Posture expert Dr. Krista Burns, founder of the American Posture Institute, believes your posture can influence your mood and even contribute to depression. Depression doesn’t just lead to a rounded posture; a rounded posture can lead to feelings of depression.
Posture helps you present yourself more confidently, and it also helps prevent degenerative neck and shoulder problems, chronic hip and knee injuries, as well as permanent dysfunctional curves in your spine. You’ll also be able to take in a deeper breath when you stand or sit up with better posture! More energy, here you come. Of course, in addition to exercise to improve posture, you want to avoid things that negatively affect your posture. Texting or using a screen while looking down for hours a day are good things to ditch, and sometimes lowering a chair or raising your screen can make a big difference.
To help you improve posture and counter some of those activities (or inactivity) of daily life, here are some exercises to either add to your strength training routine or steal a few minutes to do at lunch.
Stand with feet next to one another. Step your right foot about 2 feet in front of your left foot, in a staggered stance, right foot flat on the floor. Bend your right knee but keep your left straight. Press forward through your hips, so you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Imagine pointing your pelvis forward on the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. Take it further: Lift arms overhead, lean slightly backward, engaging the abdominals, so you don’t feel any strain on the lower back. Tight hips are no strangers to any of us who sit for work, overdo exercise, or both, and they’re the first place to start your quest for better posture. This may be more effective after exercise when muscles are warm, but you can benefit at any time.
Lie flat on your stomach on the floor. Place your arms long at your sides, palms down, thumbs out. Pull shoulders back and down as you tip your pelvis under. Keep your toes turned under on the floor. Simultaneously lift your head, shoulders, chest, arms, and legs off the ground as high as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. Breath! Release. Repeat three times. Pro tip: Keep the back of your head facing upward, don’t look forward.
Stand near a wall or a doorway. Place your right forearm on the wall and turn your body away from it until you feel a gentle stretch across the front of your shoulder and chest. Hold 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. This stretch is a much-needed one after a day over the keyboard. The chest muscle and front of the shoulder (deltoid) get shortened with a chronic forward focus. Opening the chest with a stretch, then performing the next exercise (the row below), and stretching the chest again can help you overcome that rounded posture.
Stand with feet directly under your hips, a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your back flat, hinge slightly at the hips so that your upper body is at a forward angle. Keeping elbows tight to your body, squeeze shoulder blades together as you bend elbows and pull dumbbells toward your chest. Slowly lower. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps. (Start with fewer sets and more reps performed with a lighter weight). Modify: Perform this exercise seated on a chair or end of a bench if you’re a beginner and find your lower back feels the fatigue most.
Stand holding a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand, arm down at your side. With good posture, walk from one side of the room to the other and back. Switch the weight to the other side as you turn around. Resist tipping toward the side with the weight. Repeat 2 or 3 times depending on the length of the room. This is one of those exercises that will tell you right away if you have an imbalance of strength from one side to the other. It’s definitely a very functional exercise. We do this type of carrying so much more often than loading both arms. There you have it — simple ways to challenge your balance and get your postural muscles to behave. Watch the video below for more ways to improve your posture, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more exercises.