Did you know the average person spends about 12 hours sitting (aka sedentary) a day? Whether it’s hunched over at your desk, slumping in the car or even relaxing on the couch, poor posture can invite all sorts of aches and pains, especially as we age. Improving posture is not just about standing up a little straighter, it’s about retraining your body to keep your joints, bones and muscles in alignment. Better posture leads to a reduction in aches and pains, especially in the shoulders and back, as well as helping you avoid injury and enhancing your range of motion.
Try out these simple exercises to improve your posture– and don’t worry, none involve balancing a book on your head! These exercises require no equipment and many can be done right at your desk.
- Shoulder Rolls
Combat hunched shoulders and shortened pectoral muscles with this simple move. Repeating this several times during the work day is optimal to avoid a hunchback posture, strengthen the upper back and release tightness across the chest.
Standing or sitting, inhale and raise your shoulders and shoulder blades to your ears. On the exhale, pull your shoulder blades down and together. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Chin Tuck
This exercise strengthens the neck muscles and can be done sitting or standing.
Start with your shoulders rolled back and down. While looking straight ahead, place two fingers on your chin, slightly tuck your chin and move your head back, as if you’re trying to create a double chin. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times.
- Seated Twist
Another exercise that can be done sitting at a desk and is best performed several times throughout the day.
From a seated position, sit up nice and tall and take a deep inhale. As you exhale, bring your left hand to the right arm of your chair to twist to the right. Your shoulders, abdomen and chest will be facing the right arm of your chair as you grip the chair arm to hold this twist. Hold this position for a few breaths before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side.
- Kneeling Hip Stretch
This kneeling stretch combats tightness in the iliopsoas muscle, which often becomes shortened from prolonged sitting. Tightness in this muscle can make it hard to straighten the spine properly while standing, which commonly leads to back pain.
To begin, get in a kneeling position, preferably on a mat or padded surface. Lunge one leg forward while the knee of the other leg rests on the floor. Place your hands on the lunged leg for extra stability. Gently push the hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Make sure to keep your upper body upright and chin parallel to the floor as your stretch forward. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch sides.
- Wall Angel
This exercise is a great antidote to a rounded upper spine and neck, typically from constantly staring down at a cell phone or computer screen. This move not only strengthens the shoulder and back muscles, but it also opens up tight chest muscles.
Stand with your back completely flat against a wall; it’s okay for your feet to be several inches away from the wall to achieve this. Your hips, spine, shoulders and head should all be pressed against the wall. Bring your arms up with elbows bent at 90 degrees so your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Your arms should look like a goal post, pressed back against the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 3 seconds, making sure your arms and back still stay flat against the wall.
Now, begin to straighten the arms up directly overhead without shrugging your shoulders. Try to keep as much of your arms and back of your hands in contact with the wall as possible. Repeat this 10 times, starting the arms in the goal post position, holding for 3 seconds and then raising your arms overhead. As you continue to practice this exercise, it will get easier to keep more of your forearms and the back of your hands in contact with the wall.
-Emily Koches, LulaFit