Stand up straight! Is something your mom might have told you to do when you were younger. But now that you’re older, the effects of poor posture — back and neck pain, low mood, or energy — may be starting to wear on you. So, during Correct Posture Month this May and beyond, it’s time to stop slouching and stand tall. Here’s how.
The Importance of Correct Posture
It may be your inclination to let your shoulders roll forward and sag when you stand or hunch forward when sitting at a computer, but these habits put your body into improper alignment. Standing up straight puts less tension on bones and joints, avoiding wear and tear that causes discomfort, according to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. In addition, correct posture strengthens your core, improves your breathing, and can improve mood and energy levels, they point out.
Correct posture also improves your day-to-day function, allowing you to move through the day smoothly and painlessly as you do everything from putting away groceries, unloading the dishwasher, or getting down on the floor to play with your kids. The discomfort from poor posture can also interfere with a good workout. If you have back pain, for example, you’re probably not so motivated to exercise.
6 Daily Habits to Support Better Posture
From laying to sitting and standing, here’s where to start straightening up:
#1 Change Up Your Desk
If you work at a desk most of the day, you’re fixing your body into one position — and it might be an unhealthy one, especially with WFH set-ups. (Dual monitors! Looking down at your laptop! Working from the couch!) Proper desk posture means that your chair sits high enough, so your knees are level with your hips, your monitor is positioned arm’s length away, and your wrists are straight and supported as you type, advises Mayo Clinic.
#2 Get Up and Move
Your body isn’t meant to sit in one position all day. In fact, people who spend the longest time sitting uninterrupted are more likely to have lower back pain, research shows. If you’re sitting at a desk, stand up and move around — that’s a must. Get up mid-day and take the stairs to toss in a load of laundry, walk your dog, or refill your water bottle. Even though these habits may not be standing straight per se, by changing up your spine’s position, you’ll support better posture throughout the day.
#3 Stand Up Straight
Know about the proper standing position — and practice it throughout the day. This does not mean that you have to stand perfectly all the time but check in with yourself occasionally, consider your stance, and fix as necessary. Every time you catch yourself slouching, remember these tips from the National Library of Medicine, below. With time, this straight stance will become more automatic.
- Keep your shoulders back
- Engage your core
- Shift your weight to the balls of your feet
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
#4 Practice an Upward-Facing Dog (or Two)
The upward-facing dog position in yoga, which expands your chest, is a counter to the closed chest slumping routinely done working in front of the computer, notes Northwestern Medicine.
#5 Lay Right at Night
Good posture doesn’t end when you lay down in bed. Posture matters when sleeping, too. You probably already have your favorite sleep position, but if that happens to be “on your stomach,” you might want to try to flip over. The Cleveland Clinic recommends snoozing in a way that maintains spinal curvature, which is either on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with knees slightly bent (but not in the fetal position). Old habits are tough to break (especially when you’re catching Zzz’s), so it may help to add a few pillows around you to discourage tossing and turning.
#6 Breathe Better
Slouching closes the space for breathing, triggering shallow chest breaths. Sitting or standing tall does the opposite, allowing your lungs to fully expand with each breath. You can also use deep breathing or slow, diaphragmatic breaths to help you find better posture, too, research shows. Try it right now: Take a deep breath in, aiming to fill your belly with air on the inhale, hold, and release it slowly on the exhale. It’s impossible to take this breath when hunched over — and so you’ll naturally unfold. Another benefit: The rush of oxygen can help boost brain power and leave you feeling happier than before. Now that’s sitting pretty.
Addressing your posture now (before problems start) will help you maintain an active life and feel good today — and in the future. Use this as your guide to better posture and get started with these simple tips! Your back and body will thank you.
Want to weave some mobility training into your fitness routine to support better posture? Browse the mobility category in the FitOn app for classes that will leave you feeling your best!