Top 10 tips on how to correct posture

We all know that bad posture doesn’t look good, but many people don’t realise it can lead to various problems, including neck strain, low back pain, muscle and joint stiffness, injury and poor abdominal tone. Bad posture is mainly due to bad spinal alignment.  The spine has natural curves, but these curves can become exaggerated, for example rounded shoulders or arched lower back.  We all start off with correct posture – unfortunately bad postural habits can even start before we’ve finished growing.  Factors such as inactive lifestyles, hours spent sitting (especially at desks or driving), pregnancy, wearing high heels, carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder and being overweight can all contribute to developing bad posture.  Muscle imbalances develop and the natural curves in the spine become distorted.

If you don’t take steps to correct posture problems, then they just become worse over time.  The muscle imbalances become more pronounced, which means that muscles and joints are more prone to pain and injury.  If you have bad posture, the sooner you start to correct it, the easier it will be.  All the tips listed below are easy to follow and will make a real difference.

Top 10 tips for correct posture

How to sit with correct posture

#1 Cut down on wearing high heels

It’s hard to have correct posture in high heels. This is because they affect spine alignment, as the body tries to compensate for being thrown off-balance by the heels.  Heel wearers often bend forward slightly and arch their lower backs.  This leads to posture problems that don’t go away when they take their shoes off, including a belly “pooch”.  See this post from the Spine Health Institute for a helpful infographic which illustrates this and gives advice for heel wearers.

#2 Stretch the hip flexors

The hip flexors are the muscles which join the front of the thigh bone to the pelvis.  Tight hip flexors are very common and pull the pelvis into a forward tilt and the low back into an exaggerated arch.  They’re easy to stretch out though – try to stretch them at least once a day.  Instructions are on the download  (link below).

#3 Be more active

Becoming more active will really help you to achieve correct posture.  Activity strengthens the muscles, improves flexibility and challenges balance.  All of these things help to improve posture. When you have posture problems, it’s best not to do very strenuous or vigorous exercise, because doing this with bad posture will put excessive strain on joints, ligaments and tendons.  Low impact, low to medium intensity exercises are best to start with.  Examples of suitable exercises are:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Bodyweight strength exercises – like squats, lunges, leg lifts for example
  • Dancing or dance-based exercise
  • Pilates is especially suitable for posture correction – see #8 below

If you need some inspiration to get started, then have a look at these beginner workouts.

#4 Be a healthy weight

Being over or underweight can make maintaining correct posture more difficult.  Carrying excess weight puts more strain on joints, makes muscles work harder to maintain posture and makes smooth, controlled movement more difficult.  Being underweight, on the other hand, means reduced muscle mass.  This can mean there isn’t enough strength in the spinal and pelvic muscles to maintain correct posture or effect good movement control.  See this post for a guide on how to tell if you are a healthy weight.  Also, see this post for a detailed guide to healthy eating.

#5 Do chest stretches

Often, when posture is poor, the back muscles are weak and stretched and the chest muscles are short and tight.  Chest stretches will help to open up the chest and bring the shoulder blades back and down.  Try to stretch your chest muscles several times a day – see the download for instructions on stretching the chest.

#6 Do hamstring stretches

30 day challenge featuring the best hamstring stretches to ease tightness while avoiding strain on the low back. Do a different combination of 2 stretches each day to gradually improve your flexibility. With free printable exercise chart.

The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of the thigh. Tightness is a common problem in these muscles, especially in people who sit all day. It can lead to back pain, poor posture and injury to the hamstrings. Unfortunately, bad posture, back pain and hamstring tightness often ends up being a vicious circle, which will continue to get worse unless you take action. There are lots of ways to stretch the hamstrings, which will help to break this cycle and work towards correct posture – see here for a 30 day hamstring challenge

#7 Reduce the negative effects of desk work

Although sitting at a desk all day seems like a low risk, safe activity, in fact desk workers have a high rate of back, shoulder and neck pain.  This is as a result of inactivity and poor posture. If you can’t avoid sitting all day, then take these steps to help you maintain correct posture:

  • Take frequent breaks from your desk, just to walk around and stretch your muscles.
  • Every time you sit back down, focus on your posture, make sure your back is straight, you are holding your shoulders down  and your abdominal muscles are engaged to support your lower back
  • Resist the temptation to cross one leg over the other.
  • Every 20 minutes or so, take a moment to hold your hands behind your back and allow your chest muscles to stretch.
  • Adjust you computer screen to be at eye level

#8 Do Pilates

The Pilates method is based on several key principles, including:

  • Relaxation, breathing and concentration: the mind-body connection is important in Pilates.  Relaxation and breathing help to focus  concentration on the precise muscle control required to carry out the exercises properly.
  • Centring and alignment: The Pilates method focuses on body alignment and core strength. Joseph Pilates was a strong believer that all movement should be supported by a strong “centre” – the body’s core stabilising muscles. The method mainly trains these muscles, but also strengthens the muscles in the back which stabilise the shoulder blades and hold them in place.
  • Control, precision and fluid movement: Pilates exercises should always be done with excellent technique, paying close attention to exactly how your muscles are working, but at the same time the movements should be fluid and graceful.

See this post for a 10 minute Pilates routine which will help to strengthen up the key muscles involved in maintaining correct posture

#9 Use a stability ball

The stability ball (also known as a Swiss ball) is an excellent piece of equipment for improving posture and strengthening the core muscles.  There is a wide range of exercises you can use it for.  Some require good core strength and balance, however many are suitable for beginners.  Even just sitting on the ball will help to improve posture.  Because the ball is inherently unstable, your postural muscles have to work all the time to stop you from falling off.  Sitting on the ball at your desk or to watch TV will help to improve the alignment of your spine.  For best results, though, do some core training with the ball.  When you buy a ball, it should come with a user guide with instructions for exercises. This article on the Spine Health Institute website is a useful a guide to choosing the correct exercise ball.

#10 Do ab hollowing

Abdominal hollowing is just sucking the abdominal muscles in – pulling the belly button towards the spine.  This strengthens the deep abdominal muscles, which stabilise the pelvis and spine  You can do it in any position – standing, sitting, lying, kneeling.  However, doing it in the all-4s kneeling position is good because this makes the ab muscles work directly against gravity.  You’ll find instructions for this on the download.

 

Summary – your action steps for correct posture

Tip: Cut down on wearing high heels

Action: Read this post for more info. and advice

 

Tip: Stretch the hip flexors

Action: Follow the instructions on the download

 

Tip: Be more active

Action: Try one of these workouts that are suitable for beginners

 

Tip: Be a healthy weight

Action: 1. Learn more about healthy weight here  2. Read about starting a healthy food plan and download diet log printables here

 

Tip: Do chest stretches

Action: Follow the instructions on the download

 

Tip: Do hamstring stretches

Action: See the hamstring stretch challenge here

 

Tip: Reduce the negative effects of desk work

Action: Go through the workspace points in #7 above

 

Tip: Do Pilates

Action: Start with the 10 minute workout here

 

Tip: Use a stability ball

Action: See this article from spine health on choosing a stability ball

 

Tip: Do ab hollowing

Action: Follow the instructions on the download

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Finally, for more information on training the muscles involved in correct posture, see these posts:

Core exercises beginners guideBest plank positionAbs exercises to work all the abdominal muscles

Top 10 tips for correct posture | Poor posture doesn't just look bad. It can cause neck strain, headaches, back pain, muscle tightness and belly "pooch". Full guide to how you can make a real difference to your posture |The Fit Look