Good posture may not come up first when you ask any active person about their fitness goals. But sitting, standing, and moving with a straight spine is critical for overall health. So, you might want add “improve your posture” to your wellness goals ASAP.
Why? Good posture aligns your entire body, which allows your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to operate correctly. It also releases tension or stress in your head, neck, and shoulders, as well as produces optimal range of motion, better core strength, a balanced sense of strength, and reduced risk of injury.
Basically, good posture is a big deal. Here are three things you can do today to improve yours.
Keep everything “in line.”
“Good posture is imperative,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. “Hunching over can cause you to overcompensate in shoulders and cause imbalance in your back. You always want a neutral spine even when bending and squatting.”
Cunningham says you can improve your posture when running and using cardio machines by keeping your shoulders back and neck elongated. Imagine there’s a vertical line running down your entire body, and it’s your goal to coordinate your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and feet against it. You also want to pull your head back slightly, as modern tendencies to sit all day, text on a smartphone, and lean over a computer screen all contribute to pulling your body, and posture, more forward than necessary.
If you’re not sure of the quality of your posture, ask a trainer to take a look at you standing up straight. You can also take a picture of yourself or use a mirror. It’s worth gauging. Bad posture, especially during exercise, can lead to neck pain, muscular imbalances, tight shoulders, and higher risk of injury.
“Poor posture leads to imbalances of certain muscles, which can cause over and under compensation of other muscle groups,” notes Cunningham. “This leads things like a thrown off gait and toe turn out.”
Target your core with every move.
“Posture is major to core strength, and core strength is major to having good posture,” says Cunningham. “Essentially, our core makes up our body’s ‘tree trunk,’ our foundation. Without a strong core, you won’t have a strong back or strong lower body.”
However, Cunningham emphasizes core work is much more than simply doing crunches or sit-ups. Part of practicing good posture means activating your core regularly, in addition to performing stabilization exercises such as planks and pelvic tilts.
“Core stabilization exercises really target those deep inner core muscles that develop your foundation, and help you sit and stand upright,” she continues. “Glute activation exercises, like bridges and holds, plus things like scapular retraction (pulling your shoulders toward your spine and rolling them away from your ears) help correct and prevent rounded shoulders.”
In fact, slouching is typically the effect of a weakened core, which also puts your body off balance. Again, this impacts safety during workouts and in general.
Make good posture a habit.
What’s the best way to improve your posture? Practice, practice, practice—because poor posture is usually a bad habit more than anything else. Start every workout with a proper warm-up. Then move into any type of exercise keep your core engaged, and utilize the right muscles. When you feel your posture begin to slip, take a quick break and try again. Also, consider incorporating a yoga class, which often emphasizes good posture and body alignment, to help you reprogram your body.
After all, ignoring good posture has serious impacts. You may experience poor digestion, difficulty breathing, more aches and pains, and extra stress on your joints, muscles, and organs.
The solution? Do what your mother always told you, and stand up straight!