August 22, 2016
When you think about posture, what happened? Did you sit up a bit straighter? Pull your shoulders back into alignment? Chances are if you spend most of your day sitting down, your posture has some room for improvement! We often think our posture only affects the physical being, but it also impacts on our wellness.
Physically, poor posture contributes to a majority of musculoskeletal issues. If we don’t spend time trying to improve our posture, exercising can often inflame the problem. Struggling with a tight shoulder, a sore lower back, a strained neck? These are all issues that can be aggravated if not dealt with properly.
Emotionally, poor posture can affect how you respond to different situations. Research shows that good posture provides increases levels of testosterone (think for building muscle) and decreases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). People who practice a ‘perfect posture’ have been shown to have higher levels of self-esteem and improved moods.
Some of the ways in which poor posture can manifest itself are tension headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, or muscle fatigue. For anyone who has experienced any of these symptoms, you know that the pain transcends the physical and starts to take a real toll on your body as a whole.
Fortunately, there are some simple and effective exercises for rectifying poor posture. The philosophy is simple; stretch the muscles that are tight and strengthen the muscles that are weak.
Below we go through some of the most common ailments and the exercises to correct them.
#1 Anterior pelvic tilt:
Hip and pelvic misalignment can be a major contributing factor to poor posture. The underlying cause of this is usually tight hip flexors or erector spinae (lower back). As a result, these are the muscles we need to stretch. A kneeling hip flexor stretch is shown below to release this tension. For our lower back, the cat cow exercise is best to stretch and mobilise the area. To strengthen the muscles supporting good posture we need to work on the glutes and the core. The bridge pose will target the glutes, while opposing arm and leg movement will strengthen the core.
#2 Rounded Shoulders:
As humans, we’re sitting now more than ever, and as a result our shoulders are becoming rounded and pulling on all the muscles surrounding our back and neck. While keeping active and walking regularly will help with this, there are some key exercises that you can do to improve your posture. A tight chest will often be what’s causing our shoulders to curl over, so stretching these out regularly through a clasped back hand hold will help considerably. To strengthen the muscles surrounding the scapula holding our back upright, practicing some superman holds for 10 seconds will build these muscles. Make sure you keep your feet on the ground to avoid any undue compression in the lower back.
#3 Forward Head:
The other main postural ailment causing many corporate workers some trouble is a forward head. Sitting at a computer screen all day and holding your head up can be tiring for your upper back and neck muscles. This often results in tight upper trapezius (around your shoulders) and upper back, so stretching these muscles through forward clasped hands is essential. Strengthening the neck muscles will help to re-align your posture, so practicing little neck tucks will relieve the tension caused by straining the neck.
Now that may seem like a lot of exercises, so instead of doing each one every day, just pick one exercise to do daily. A practice schedule could look like this:
Monday: practice your superman’s before a gym session. 10 reps for 10 seconds.
Tuesday: wake up to some cat cow stretches. Mid morning practice neck tucks at your desk 5 reps.
Wednesday: complete the bridge exercise before your workout. 10 reps for 10 second holds.
Thursday: do some hip flexor stretches while watching tv or before bed.
Friday: perform some forward hand clasps in your lunch break.
Saturday: stretch out the chest muscles when you wake up.
Sunday: do some opposing arm and leg movements before a walk.
Practising stretching and strengthening of our muscles like this will provide a significant improvement in your posture over time. The power comes from practice!