Toned neck and flexible back: ultimate exercises to improve posture
“Stand straight and don’t slouch!” Yeah, your mother probably told you this. And she was right: good posture is not all about beauty. According to a research “Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts”, we look and feel more confident and less anxious when we keep our back straight.
We can even get our emotional poise back and come across as younger than we are (link). There is some evidence that proper control of your posture can also help enjoy an active life longer! (link). No matter how old you are, no matter how you feel, it is never too late to start paying more attention to your posture. The good news is that it doesn’t take that long to practice a little. The result is determined by how regular your exercises are, so once you start, don’t skip! So, let’s figure out why our posture is more than just looks and what are the effective ways to improve it.
Types of Posture and How to Keep it
Posture is how you hold your body. There are two types. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you are moving, like when you are walking, running, or bending over to pick up something. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving, like when you are sitting, standing, or sleeping. It’s simple to see if you have the correct posture: stand in your usual posture and ask someone nearby to rate how true these statements are: your head is exactly above the shoulders, at an equal distance from both; your hips need to be in good alignment with your shoulders and with your knees.
It is in this position that the spine experiences minimal stress. By the way, it is useful to check how healthy your posture is, in different positions: sitting, standing, lying (in the usual position for your sleep), and also while walking.
It is a good idea to repeat these checks from time to time but regularly, even if seemingly nothing has changed. Every day, our spine is exposed to hundreds of small attacks: age and related changes, consequences or symptoms of various diseases, including those not directly related to diseases of the spine or joints, and in recent years – also constant exposure to electronic devices. With every year we are becoming increasingly dependent on our gadgets, and every day we are spending more and more time slouching in front of our laptops, our heads down, or holding smartphones between our shoulders and our heads. We are getting used to sitting or standing, stooping our shoulders and stretching our neck, and it is more and more difficult to return to the correct position.
Dangers of Poor Posture
While most people are aware of the common problems, such as neck and back pain, they don’t realize that the issues can extend much further. In fact, sitting and standing poorly, usually while at work, can contribute to increased stress, fatigue, decreased lung capacity, and reduced productivity.
The simple truth is that the human body was designed for regular motion. Yet, most of the jobs nowadays require spending hours on end, day after day, sitting.
Muscle Spasm and Pain
They manifest themselves first in your neck and your shoulders. If you work at the office you should probably know how it feels when you simply can’t turn your head left or right or move a shoulder without expecting the nagging pain. If this is your problem, do not rush to the doctor, first try to sit up straight, straighten your shoulders and get your chin up. The research named “Prevalence and factors associated with neck pain: a population-based study“, proves that in 20% cases the regular control of the posture is enough to ward off pain and spasm for good.
Feeling Pain When You Move
If from day to day we persist standing and sitting in the wrong posture, the body eventually gets used to this position taking it as a new norm and you risk getting moulded in it. As a result, even the muscles can become shorter, and we feel pain when moving.
If you notice it, you should take prompt measures on correcting your posture, otherwise, you risk developing serious ailments.
Muscle Power Decline
Yes, with the poor posture you may end up weaker physically. There is a research called “Increase Strength and Mood with Posture” where a number of sports professionals do identical exercises for arm strength. The experiment participants performed differently depending on what stance they took. If they slouched, they could bench press smaller weight than if they were holding a straight back and straight shoulders. You can read more right down the link.
Rib Cage Pain
If your shoulders are round most of the day, your body has to somehow compensate for the load, and most often through the muscles of the sternum. Due to constant overload, you may start experiencing severe pain in this area. If you feel pain in the rib cage, be sure to see a doctor, as the cause may be more serious than poor posture. And even before you get to your doctor appointment, straighten your shoulders and… just stop slouching, really…
Low Self-esteem and Even Depression
The easiest way to feel better and more confident in a matter of seconds is to….that’s right, stop slouching, throw back your shoulders, and you will feel the energy drive and revitalization. A study “Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms“, has proved that people suffering from depression but dedicating a few minutes to their posture exercises daily, reported less fatigue and misery and were even eager to start communicating with others.
Poor posture in itself cannot provoke the development of this disease, but if you already suffer from the shoulder or hip joints arthritis or arthritis of the thoracic or cervical spine, poor posture can significantly worsen the condition and make the symptoms of the disease more painful.
Your lungs are designed to function at their best when the rib cage and diaphragm have enough space to expand. According to research “The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function”, published in Journal of Physical Therapy Science, people who use their smartphones more than four times a day not only have poor posture but also some issues with lung function.
When we lift one shoulder to hold the phone or stretch our chin while tilting our neck, we involuntarily squeeze the pectoral muscles, so our lungs cannot function normally.
Digestive and Stomach Issues
Do you remember your parents taught you to sit right at the dinner table when you were a kid? The more we hunch down during and especially after eating, the higher the risk of heartburn and even acid reflux, which is a condition in which gastric juice and food particles spill out of the stomach back into esophagus… Eww! We slouch and this makes the spine press heavily on the stomach, thereby making it difficult for digestion. By the way, poor posture can also make it more likely that you develop stomach fat, or those abdominal pouches that most people dread.
How to fix your posture
The first thing to remember is that posture correction practice does not take much time daily, but make sure it is regular. It is advisable to do the exercises several times a day, and it is best if you train at least twice during the working day. There are also a few general rules to follow to keep your back straight and not lower your head in any situation.
Go For a Walk
We slouch more when we sit than when we stand or walk. Therefore, the more time you spend in the vertical position the better it is for alignment of your spine, and the faster you will actually get used to holding yourself straight. Remember that it often takes mere 28 days to form a solid habit. Just start going for a walk four times a week.
Organize Your Workstation for Comfort and Efficiency
Slouching at your desk diminishes focus and does not convey your ambition to your colleagues cause you are more likely to come across as constantly tired and unmotivated. However, if you can improve the way you carry yourself with the right ergonomic seating, then you can improve alertness and become more productive within your role. Yes, think of your spine first. Hour after hour slouching at your desk, peering your weakening eyes in the computer screen. How about a little reorganisation of your workstation?
First, position the monitor screen so that the bottom third is aligned with your eye level Second, make sure your knees are aligned with your hips when you are sitting. Or replace your work chair. Finally, a good investment would be a headset for a mobile phone: when talking on a mobile phone, we often pinch it between the ear and shoulder, thereby disrupting the healthy position of the spine.
Take a Mirror Test.
A simple test will help you to understand how badly your posture needs to be corrected and what you should pay attention to first. Front view. Stand facing a full-length mirror and check to see if:
Your shoulders are level and not round
Your head is straight and in level with your chest
The spaces between your arms and sides seem equal
Your hips are level
Your kneecaps face straight ahead
Your ankles are straight
Just fix this posture in your head and visualize yourself standing in this very position. Perhaps at first, you will not feel very comfortable, which may suggest that your body has already adapted to the bad posture. Make sure to practice and you will start feeling better until one day you understand that a posture with a straight back is natural and pleasant for you.
The “wall test”
Stand so the back of your head, shoulder blades and buttocks touch the wall. Your heels should be 2 to 4 inches apart.
Place a flat hand behind the small of your back. You should be able to slide your hand between your lower back and the wall. If there’s too much space behind your lower back, draw your belly button toward your spine. If there’s too little space behind your lower back, arch your back so your hand can slide behind you.
Stand still in this position for a little while. Help your body remember this posture because this is a healthy posture.
Place both feet on the floor or a leg rest with your knees at hip level. Pull your chin slightly so that the crown of your head is exactly against the ceiling, press your lower back against the back of the chair.
The best and most effective posture correction exercises always involve stretching. Of course, it would be perfect to take up yoga or pilates, but if you don’t have the opportunity, here are some simple exercises that you can do at home, in-between your daily errands:
Stand next to the wall, straighten your arms along your body. Then, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, rest your elbows against the wall, and stretch your arms well upward while pressing them against the wall. It will help you stretch your thoracic spine, which is particularly affected by poor posture.
Another one. Sit on a chair, straighten your back and turn your head to the right. Place your left palm on the back of your head and pull together with your head – this will help stretch the cervical region (neck region).
Hold your Back!
Start paying attention to your back, that is your mighty pillar. Poor posture is an alarming signal that can be both a symptom and even a cause of serious and dangerous diseases. But if you learn to keep your back straight and your head held high, then most likely you will feel better, feel younger longer and confidence will become your second nature. Good posture can be developed at any age with little time or effort. After all, the queen is not the only one to have a royal posture!
What to learn more? Read here: