Simple Exercises to Improve Posture
One of the most satisfying results of the last annual physical I had was to verify that my height hadn’t changed – I was still 63 1/2 inches tall. Yay! And, as a woman in my mid 60’s my body shouldn’t be shrinking if I’m making wise decisions about a healthy lifestyle as I age.
When researching for this post and 8 benefits of good posture, postural kyphosis, sometimes known as dowager’s hump, immediately came to mind.
Kyphosis occurs when the angle of the spine is out of the typical range.
It’s the small hump that can form at the back of your neck, and is usually due to slouching, but can also occur after a spinal injury, underlying bone or spinal conditions, or as a result of the aging process.
Fortunately, if you notice it in time, there are actions you can take to correct the muscular imbalances with lifestyle adjustments, including specific exercises to correct the problem.
I have not been the best example of good posture over the years, but I’m getting better. When I walk for exercise, I make a conscious effort to keep my head up, eyes straight ahead, tummy pulled in and keep up a brisk pace. I’m not the most coordinated or graceful girl, but so far I’ve managed to stay upright!
My work requires that I sit at a computer, and my long-term habit is to slouch. Not good! All that sitting also makes for a sore rear-end, so I bought this memory foam seat cushion about 6 months ago and absolutely love it:
The pillow is intended to help alleviate back and hip pain as well as promote healthy posture.
I’ve become very attached to my seat cushion and feel that it’s really helped me to sit better, but I still need some lumbar support.
After learning so much from the research for this post, I decided to try rolling up a towel and placing it at the small of my back to help me sit up straighter while working in the office. It was really helpful, so I decided to order this lumbar pillow to help me maintain a straighter spine while I work:
- It’s called the Original McKenzie Lumbar Roll
- The design ensures proper spine alignment and posture while sitting, providing comfortable back pain relief for the lumbar (low back) region
- Measures approximately 11″ L x 4.75″ diameter
We’ll talk about some simple exercises you can do to maintain and enhance good posture, but first, let’s see how putting forth the effort to stand (or sit) straight and tall benefits us at any age, but particularly through the midlife years.
8 Benefits of Good Posture
There are more benefits to good posture and standing straight than being able to walk with a book balanced on your head.
Our friends at webmd.com have some simple tips for us to follow that will help us stand tall:
Pretend you’re standing against a wall to measure your height. Hold your head straight and tuck in your chin. Your ears should be over the middle of your shoulders. Stand with your shoulders back, knees straight, and belly tucked in. Don’t let your booty or hips stick out. Straighten up so you feel like your head stretches toward the sky.
Here are a couple of very useful tips for good posture from our friends at Healthline:
When sitting, your feet should rest flat on the floor, with even weight on both hips. Your back should be mostly straight (you’ll have natural curves in your lumbar, thoracic, and cervical areas). Your shoulders should be back but relaxed and your ears should line up over your collarbones.
When standing, your legs should have a slight knee bend so you’re not hyperextending or locking your knee joints.
Okay…on to the benefits of maintaining good posture as we get older!
1 | Look slimmer and more confident
Stand tall and look 3 – 5 pounds thinner as well as better in your clothes. Gosh, how easy is that?? I’ll take a slimmer look any day by simply standing straight and tall…well, as tall as my 5 ft. 3 inch body will allow!
I think standing straight also gives an air of confidence, which can be particularly helpful when we don’t necessarily feel that way.
If you walk around with slumped shoulders and head down, it can make you look heavier. We don’t want that.
2 | Breathe easier
Poor posture can affect your breathing and lung capacity. Why?
When you slouch your frontal muscles and tendons become shortened, so it’s harder to take deep breaths. Standing straight and tall can improve your breathing ability by as much as 30%, according to a study by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
3 | Relief from back pain
According to the American Chiropractic Association, devastating back pain will affect about 80% of the population in their lifetime and is the leading single cause of disability.
Proper posture helps keep your bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles properly aligned, which can prevent and relieve back pain.
If you’re one of the fortunate 20% with no back issues, good posture is essential to helping you stay that way!
4 | Improve mood and energy
The next of the 8 benefits of good posture is about our mood as well as energy level. This is interesting. Based on research conducted by San Francisco State University, your posture automatically affects your state of mind.
We tend to slump our shoulders when feeling low or depressed, and have more upright posture when we’re feeling good, relaxed, or happy.
By choosing to maintain good posture all the time, we can actually alter our state of mind and feel more positive. That’s a freebie I’ll take all day long!
5 | Better circulation and digestion
Good posture helps keep your internal organs, particularly those within your abdomen, in their natural position without undue compression. It can also help relieve issues such as acid reflux, constipation, and hernias.
Slouching can interfere with the normal flow and function of your gastrointestinal system.
6 | Healthier muscles
Poor posture, sitting or standing, places strain on already sensitized muscles and soft tissues. Good posture distributes the force of gravity evenly throughout your muscles, to no one structure is over-stressed.
You’ll strengthen your core, butt muscles, and back extensions.
7 | Stronger spine
Poor posture adds strain to muscles and puts stress on our spine, which over time can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine. This can lead to constricted blood vessels and nerves.
By developing and maintaining proper posture alignment when we sit and stand, our body will be less fatigued as well as less strain on our ligaments and muscles.
8 | Fewer headaches
Poor postures can contribute to tension headaches because of increased muscle tension in the back of the neck.
When we correct our sitting and standing posture it’s possible to eliminate some of our headache woes because we’re reducing that muscle tension.
8 Benefits of Good Posture: Simple Exercises to Improve Posture As We Age
So, now that we understand the 8 benefits of good posture as we age, how about some simple exercises to improve posture? I am the first to admit that my posture is not always the best, particularly when sitting.
Something I do regularly is to get up and walk around every 45 minutes or so when I’m in the office working at the computer. Not only is it helpful to stay limber and get the blood flowing again, it helps me to walk off the fidgety-ness that I get when I sit for a while.
Add some stretching to the walking and you’ll be helping your posture, too.
If you have any health issues or questions as to whether you’re able to perform these exercises, make sure to discuss them with your physician first.
Here’s an easy exercise from our friends at Health.com to help improve our posture:
Every morning and night, lie down on the floor and make slow “snow angels” with your arms for two or three minutes.
For an extra challenge, roll up a towel and put it on the floor underneath your spine. Many gyms have half foam rollers—a tube cut in half lengthwise—that you can use for even more of a stretch.
Do these stretches slowly and stop if you feel anything worse than mild discomfort or pain, the article says. You may need to work up to the full three minutes of making “snow angels”
There are a number of helpful exercises to improve posture from our friends at healthline.com, including a demonstration of how to properly perform the exercises. I’ve highlighted a few of them here:
1) Head Retraction Exercise:
This exercise helps to strengthen the neck muscles that can often be weak and stretched out.
Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your chin back toward the floor like you’re trying to make a double chin. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat 10 times.
2) Push Out Pecs to Relieve Lungs:
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Interlock your hands behind your back. Hold for 20 seconds to stretch your chest and pectoral muscles.
3) Overhead Arm Raise:
It takes muscular effort to maintain good posture, as it requires your core and upper back muscles to be engaged.
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground with even weight on both hips. Engage your core by slightly tucking in and flattening your lower back. Let your arms fall to your sides comfortably. Raise them both up at the same time over your head and bring them back to the starting position.
4) Shoulder Pull Back:
Sit or stand with a neutral spine. Shift your shoulder blades to the back. Lift both forearms to a 90-degree angle at your sides. Pull your shoulder blades closer together, as if you’re squeezing them, while your arms naturally extend backward. Complete three sets of 12 reps.
Correct posture is something I will always have to work at. It does not come naturally to me. But, I understand the benefits of good posture, and how important maintaining a straight and tall form is to my body and my overall perspective.
How about you? Is it time to take some action to ensure that your body ages in a healthy way? What can you start doing right now, today, to improve your posture? Go for it!
By the way, here’s a really helpful infographic for you to use as a resource to be reminded about the benefits of good posture.
This infographic was created by Metro Physical and Aquatic Therapy
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