Imagine if some strange force was preventing you from standing fully erect. We already have gravity to contend with, but you may have another insidious force working against you—your office chair and your desk in general.
I call it the sit and slump, and millions of Americans endure it each day. When finished with sitting and slumping at work, many continue to sit and slump behind the wheel, at the dinner table, and in front of the TV set.
This gives you the round-shouldered, sunken chest look that looks bad and prevents proper functioning of your body. Plus, any posture deviation you have now, just imagine what it’ll be like in 10 or 20 years if you do nothing about it.
That’s the key to motivation in health and strength for me, and maybe it’ll work for you: imagine what you’ll look like if you do nothing. I’d be skinny and weak and slumped over if I didn’t exercise. I don’t want that, so I train.
For posture, it’s a continuous investment. The need to practice posture exercises never goes away. Because the things that cause you to need them don’t change. We sit a lot and don’t move much. That’s why I have a bunch of different exercises on this page. Pick a few to do at a time and focus on them for 1 -3 months then change.
Exercises to Improve Your Posture
Get Up Every 50 Minutes and Move Around
This is an easy one and all too forgotten. I’ve been in 2 hour meetings where no one moves. Sometimes 3 hour meetings. No one gets up. Some people sit for that long during the day. That’s a LONG stretch. Get up! Get up every 50 minutes for at least 5 – 10 minutes.
Face the Wall Squat
- Stand facing the wall with your toes and nose touching the wall.
- Raise your arms above your head at 45 degrees.
- Keep your arms straight.
- Lower yourself until the point just before you fall backwards.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds or longer.
The only time you twist in life might be when you’re backing out your car. And maybe then you just use your neck (or only your rearview mirror like my dad does). But your back can, and should, twist, too.
If you’re lacking this movement in your life, you should supplement a twisting motion periodically throughout the day.
A great way to do it is, while sitting, to lock your feet on your chair to stabilize your hips. Then grab the chair and twist. Hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. You can do this a few times throughout the day—even once per day is good.
It looks like this.
That’s it. Just do it a few times a day. It complements the face the wall squat nicely.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sit on the ground and place one leg straight out in front of you and the other folded up with the foot pressed against the thigh of the straight leg. Fold from the hips and reach for your straight leg’s foot.
When your muscles tighten to resist your stretch, tighten them even more, without losing any stretch. It helps to imagine driving your heel in the ground when you are tightening your muscles.
Then relax and breathe out a sigh of relief. Repeat the tense / release process 2-3 times. When you reach the greatest stretch, tighten your muscles and hold the tension for several seconds to ‘reset’ the nervous system to the new length. Then relax and come up.
It is easy to ‘cheat’ and fold your back over to give the appearance of getting a greater stretch. Resist this temptation and give your focus to stretching your hamstrings.
You should feel this stretch in the back of your leg, but not the back of the knee. If you feel the stretch there you are going too far too soon.
You can hit different parts of the hamstring (it’s actually three different muscles) by stretching directly over the leg, about 45 degrees to outside of the leg, and 45 degrees to the inside of the leg.
Along with the hip flexors, the hamstrings tighten during long periods of sitting and can negatively impact posture.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on the ground, placing one knee on a pillow (or soft earth) with the other leg in front, foot flat on the ground. Place your hands on your hips and push your hips forward and then pull them back, rhythmically.
You should feel this stretch in about the same place as you can see my hand. The hip flexors connect to the back. Many people experience back pain due to tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors pull on the back and can alter the natural curve of the back.
As you push your hips forward, you can simultaneously look up and arch your back rearward. This helps to open the chest, which is another important feature of good posture and another area that excessive sitting impacts negatively.
Do 5-10 oscillations, then switch to the other leg.
Clasp your hands behind your back and straighten your arms by rolling your shoulders down and back. Open your chest and tilt your head and neck back, looking upward at the ceiling. Push the hips forward.
Hold for 10-20 seconds, but do not strain. Imagine your posture improving and your spine lengthening. You can do this stretch a few times a day, especially if you are working on your posture.
Remember: Be vigilant about your posture. It’s a low-hanging fruit for increasing your overall well-being.