We all know that proper posture is one of those universal “shoulds,” and for good reason. Standing up straight is one of the simplest ways to look more confident, get respect from peers, and to appear fit and healthy. Beneficial virtues, and all. There is an insightful TedTalk by Amy Cuddy that discusses this very concept in depth. But don’t take our word for it. The next time you are out and about, observe for yourself how someone that’s slouching with rounded shoulders and upper back comes across to you versus the person that is standing with upright posture. How does better posture affect the way they move about the world? How do you improve your posture?
In order to know how to improve posture problems, you must understand the various causes of bad posture. In this guide, we’ve outlined what bad habits affect posture and provided tips on how to improve your upright posture by creating new static posture habits.
Understand Your Genetics
Some poor posture can be caused by genetics. Take a look at the static posture of your parents and grandparents; without intervention, you’ll most likely adopt the same with time. Think of it as a cautionary tale. The earlier we’re aware, the sooner we can take preventative measures and leave the cane at home.
Evaluate Your Daily Habits
However, you can’t blame mom for everything. Poor posture can also be significantly impacted by your daily habits. For example, do you look down at your phone all day? This seemingly small action will without question develop forward-rolling shoulders and a rounded, hump-like upper back. It’ll feel strange at first, but simply by lifting your phone up to meet your eyes, instead of tilting your head down will go a long way to prevent the wrong kind of curves.
Alter Bad Habits and Reinforce New Ones
In order to correct posture, you’ll need to alter bad habits, for sure. You’ll also need exercises to strengthen the muscles that are not doing their job and stretch those that are over-working. For example, with a rounded back (hump), you will need to strengthen the neck extensors, back extensors, rhomboids and posterior shoulders that keep your spine straight, and stretch the chest, anterior (front) shoulder and the neck flexors.
There is work involved in adjusting your posture, but once your body has learned to hold itself correctly, it becomes effortless to maintain. Our skeletal system is a masterpiece of balance and function. When it is aligned properly, one segment rests on top of the next, allowing your body to not have to work so hard to function. You may also find that you sleep better. After all, your body won’t be battling low grade chronic pain, nor will your nervous system have to work all night trying to figure out the puzzle of your pieces. More confidence, respect, and better sleep? Not a bad return on investment.
Let’s look at some common bad habits that lead to poor posture, the new habit to help retrain your brain for better posture, and the stretch and correlating posture exercise to get you standing taller and feeling better.
Bad Habit #1: Holding phone below chest height= Rounded upper back and neck
- New Habit: Hold your phone up at chin level while reading and responding to messages
- Corrective Stretch: Lay down lengthways on a foam roller or a 2-3 large towels rolled up- bring your arms out to the side with the elbow bent, palms facing up- like you’re making a goal post with your arms. Keeping the elbow bent, bring the arms overhead till fingertips touch and then back to goal posts. Do these 3 times a day for 1-2 minutes.
- Corrective Posture Exercise: Bent over Close Grip Rows, with free weights. Hold 1 weight in each hand, palms facing one another. Place one foot forward, then hinge forward at the hip flexors keeping the back flat- do NOT allow the upper back to round. Bend the elbows, pull the weights to the outside of your ribcage and draw your shoulder blades together. 3 sets of 15 reps.
Bad Habit #2: Using a low computer monitor = Forward head syndrome
- New Habit: Raise your monitor up so the middle of your screen is in line with your eyes
- Corrective Stretch: Sit up tall in a chair you’re your back straight. Tilt your head to the right bringing your right ear toward your right shoulder.
Place your right hand on the left side of your head gently bringing your ear closer to your shoulder. You will feel the stretch along the left side of your neck muscles and upper trapezius muscle. Do these 3 or more times a day for 30-60 seconds on each side.
- Corrective Posture Exercise: Sit up tall in a chair with your back straight. Have your head level, so that your chin is parallel with the floor. Draw your head straight without lilting the chin up or down, until you feel the back-neck muscles activate. Hold the core muscle engagement for 30-60 seconds. Repeat the core strength exercise 3 or more times throughout the day. Best if done right after the stretch.
Bad Habit #3: Slumping while seated: driving, eating, watching TV, working.
- New Habit: Draw your shoulder blades back, and imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head that is pulling your spine tall.
- Corrective Stretch: Bring your hands together behind your back, with the fingers interlaced. Lift your arms up and away from your body till you feel the stretch across the front of the shoulders and chest muscles.
- Corrective Posture Exercise: Bent over Reverse Flies, with free weights. Hold 1 light weight in each hand. Place one foot forward, then hinge forward at the hips keeping the back flat- do NOT allow the upper back to round. Round the arms in front of you like they are around a beach ball. Open the arms to the side, lifting then up in line with the shoulders. Resist as you lower the arms back to the starting position. 3 sets of 15 reps.
By creating new habits and utilizing these ways to correct posture, you can support proper alignment in your spine. However, if you stick to poor habits you are likely to remain with bad posture which can lead to a number of health concerns, chronic pain, and posture problems.
The Effects of Poor Posture
Aside from aesthetics, poor posture also has many side effects to your health and wellbeing. Chronic headaches, neck pain, lower back pain, knee pain, herniated discs, carpal tunnel, bursitis, frozen shoulder, nerve impingement, joint injury, TMJ, digestion issues, potbelly are just a few of the potential consequences.
Support Healthy Posture with Supportive Footwear
Aside from improving posture through new habits and corrective stretches/exercises, you can do so through arch support shoes. Having shoes that support the natural curve of your feet will help support the proper alignment of your spine. This is key for improved posture.
At Vionic, we believe in maintaining good posture and healthy feet through our supportive footwear. Each pair of our shoes was made to support the arches of your feet, which in turn, helps you evade posture problems. Through three-zone comfort technology, you’ll have the stability, arch support, and supportive cushioning your feet need to help you maintain good posture.
Browse our collection of the best walking shoes for men and women today. Once you find a pair in a style you love, you’ll be on your way to improved posture.
Juliet Kaska is one of the country’s leading celebrity trainers and health + wellness experts. Juliet is trained and certified in multiple disciplines, making her workout programs both diverse and innovative. She is certified as a Second Generation Master Pilates Teacher and has received dual certification as a personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In addition, yoga guru Dharma Mittra trained her as a yoga teacher.