Unfortunately, bad body posture is an epidemic these days, mostly due to the fact that we spend our time working on the desk, staring at the computers or smartphones, and sitting.
Body posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down.
Good posture is the proper alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Yet, we do not consciously maintain normal posture, but there are some muscles which have this role.
The most important muscle groups in maintaining good body posture include the hamstrings and large back muscles. These groups of postural muscles, when functioning properly, do not allow the forces of gravity to push us over forward, while our ligaments help to hold the skeleton together.
Postural muscles also maintain body posture and balance during movement. Good posture aids all our movements and activities and ensures the body is in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities.
Correct posture ensures our muscles are used properly, reduces the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could cause degenerative arthritis and joint pain, and the stress on ligaments that hold the spinal joints together, preventing injuries and pain.
Additionally, it helps the body to use less energy as the muscles work more efficiently, and thus prevents muscle fatigue.
A proper body posture is gained by adequate flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body areas, efficient postural muscles balanced on both sides of the spine.
Poor body posture can also be a result of bad sleeping positions, stress, weak muscles, slouching, anxiety, tight muscles, low self-confidence, or being overweight.
However, the longer you ignore it, the more difficult it would be to correct the bad posture. Over time, slouching and bad posture can lead to shoulder and back pain, headaches, stiffness, fatigue, sciatica, muscle strain, poor circulation, injuries, joint pain, stiffness, muscle strain, nerve compression, muscle atrophy, difficulty breathing, and digestion issues.
Fortunately, you can improve bad body posture by exercising, and as you strengthen the muscles, you will notice great improvements.
Here are the top exercises and stretches you should try:
Lay down, with the hands on the floor, and the palms facing down under the shoulders. Breathe in as you elevate the ribs off the floor, lungs forward, and your shoulders back, but without crunching the neck. Hold for 30 seconds.
Upright Snow Angels
With the knees slightly bent, press the lower and upper back and head against the wall. Press the back of the arms against the wall while the fingers are pushed against it. Move the arms above the head while pushing the body against the wall. Repeat 10 times.
While lying on your stomach, with the forehead on the ground and the arms on the sides, press the palms on the thighs, straighten the elbows, and squeeze the legs together with the toes outwards. Breathe out, elevate the head, chest, and upper abdomen, and lower them while inhaling. Repeat 10 times.
Pectoral Doorway Stretch
Stand inside the doorway with the right arm at 90 degrees and the forearm against the door frame, and the bent elbow at shoulder height. Rotate the chest to the left, and hold for half a minute. Repeat with the other arm.
While lying on your stomach with the knees bent, bring them to the hips, grab the feet with the hands, and lift the chest, knees and head off the mat. Inhale and kick the legs while letting the arms go naturally with them. Exhale and repeat 5 times.
Start in a press-up position, with the body weight on the forearms, while the elbows bend on the ground. Engage the core, and hold for a minute.
Broom Shoulder Stretch
Hold a band or a broomstick in front of you with an overhand wide grip. Raise it over the head and all the way around and back until you hit the buttocks. Make 10 repetitions.
Start on all fours, with the palms under the shoulders, and knees below the hips. Inhale, pull the belly in and stretch the back like a cat with the tailbone, curve the back, and drop the head. Then, return to the initial position, and stretch the head and tailbone up. Make 5 repetitions.
Start lying with the back, with a foam roller perpendicular to the spine and across the shoulders. Raise the glutes up, and move back and forth with the help of the heels. Keep rolling, and when you feel discomfort, hold there for 30 seconds.
Pectoral Ball Smash
Place a tennis ball between the chest near the shoulder and the wall, and roll it around until you find a tight spot with discomfort. Hold there for 20 seconds to release the knot and smooth the fascia. Roll the ball again to find more such spots.
You will get the best effects if you do these exercises daily, or at least 4 times a week. Over time, they will help you improve your posture, reduce slouching, and strengthen the muscles.
Additionally, follow these tips to improve your posture:
- Use a standing desk or place the computer monitor at the level of your face
- While standing, bear your weight primarily on the balls of the feet and keep the knees slightly bent
- Hold the abs tight
- Walk around your office to avoid sitting for too long
- Remind yourself not to slouch
- Visualize yourself standing tall
- Sleep in a comfortable position, and do not sleep on the stomach
- Use proper pillows and comfortable mattresses
- Sleeping on your side will relieve back pain. You can also place a pillow between your legs.