Improving Your Posture

Good posture is important for your physical and emotional health. Good posture is defined as your head, neck, shoulders, hips and feet all in proper alignment relative to each other. When a person is viewed from the side, this means that the person stands tall with the head facing forward, with the neck over the shoulders and not protruding forward. The shoulders are back, not rounded and the hips are placed over the feet. There is no excessive roundness of the upper back (khyphosis) or excessive inward curvature of the lower back (lordosis). Viewed from the front, the persons head is straight and not tilted to the right or left, the shoulders are level as are the hips. The feet point straight ahead and are not rotated out or in.

 Good posture illustrated







Physically, good posture is important to help minimize muscle imbalances and stress on ligaments and tendons which could result in neck, shoulder and low back pain. As well, headaches, numbness in the arms and legs, respiratory, stomach and bowel problems have been associated with poor posture. Emotionally, good posture creates an image of self-confidence, and assertiveness. People with poor self-esteem often carry themselves with their head down, neck protruding forward and rounded shoulders, in what is called a “slumped over” posture.









For many people, especially in the older adult, poor posture is the result of years of neglect of standing and sitting up properly which has resulted in weak postural muscular and flexibility. The result is increase stress on the vertebrae’s and disc’s of the spine and an earlier development of arthritis of the spine. It is difficult to correct poor posture when it has slowly developed over years due to poor postural habits. When it comes to maintaining good posture prevention is the best medicine. It is important to remember that it is never too late to incorporate good preventive measures into your daily life.

Preventative Measure

The best way to avoid poor posture is to;

1. Practice good standing and sitting posture. Always be conscious of how you stand and walk. When you are standing still don’t lean on one leg and when walking standing tall, head facing forward and shoulders back. You should also walk with your feet/toes facing forward and not flared out or in which puts a lot of pressure on your knees and hips.









2. Get regular exercise for good general fitness and health.

3. Practice flexibility exercises daily to prevent contracture of the postural muscles, ligaments and tendons that are under constant physical stress from sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time during the day (table 1)

4. Do specific strengthening exercises for your upper back (Rhomboids) and core (abdominal and lower back area), to prevent muscle atrophy and imbalances in these important postural muscles (table 1).

5. Don’t sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time without standing up and stretching by bending over to touch the floor, leaning backwards and gently rotating your torso side to side. You can also rotate your shoulders backward and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you rotate your shoulders. Moving your neck upward and downward and side to side as well as shoulder shrugs. These simple exercises helps alleviate stress in the lower back, neck and shoulder area.

6. Feel good about yourself. People who have strong self esteem and self worth carry themselves with a more upright posture. Even on days when you don’t feel that good make a conscious effort to sit and walk straighter and you will feel better.

Table 1: Upper and Lower Back Flexibility and Strengthening Exercises that will Promote Good Posture

1. Neck Stretches 1. Flex and extend2. Laterally bend to the right and then to the left3. Rotate to the right and then to the left
2. Upper back (extension)/chest Stretch   Reach behind your back and put your palms together. Extend the elbows and reach down toward the buttocks. 




With your elbows bent, pull your shoulder blades as far back and together as you can.

3. Backward Shoulder Rotations Slowly rotate your shoulders backwards in a complete circle
4. Chest (Pectorals Major) Stretch Lift your arms to 90° put them against a door jam as shown and lean forward.
5. External Shoulder Stretch Pretend to scratch your upper back and reach as far down as you can along the spin
6. Shoulder Shrugs You may either sit or stand and lift your shoulders towards your ears
7. Arm Extensions Over your Head Lift your arms over your head and intertwine your fingers
8. Lower Back and Hamstring Stretch Gently bend forward as far as you can without straining yourself
9. Lower Back Extension Gently bend backwards as far as you can comfortably. You may put your hands behind you at the waist level to support the lower back
10. Lower Back Trunk Rotations Gently rotate to the right and then to the left as far as you can comfortably. This may be done sitting or standing.
11. Lower Back Lateral Bending Gently bend sideways to the right and then to the left as far as you can comfortably. This may be done sitting or standing.
12. Child Pose From a position on your hands and knees gently move your buttocks back to your heels. Your arms will naturally extend in front of you.Caution– This may be difficult for people with arthritic knees or hips.
Strengthening Exercises
1. Upper Back Extensions (Rhomboids)
1a. Upper Back Extensions on Floor Lying on the floor, place your hands behind your head and lift your chest off the floor. It is important to keep you head in line with your neck and upper back. The neck or head should not hyperextend.
1b. Sitting or Standing Bent Over Lateral Raise Bending over with elbows extended and pointing down abduct the arms (lift the arms out to the side) to shoulder level height. Hold for 1 sec. and then lower.
1c. Sitting or Standing Bent Over Rows 


From a bent over position bend your elbows and lift the weights to chest height. Hold for 1 sec. and then lower
1d. Kneeling, sitting or Standing Cable Rows Back is straight, arms are extended at chest height and pull cable handles toward your chest. Hold for 1 sec and then return to start position.
2. Core Exercises
2a. Mat or Swiss ball Lower Back Extensions Mat- Lying on your stomach, lift your chest and legs off the floor and hold for 10 sec. Rest for 3 sec and repeat 6 times. 




Swiss Ball – Lie with the ball under your belly button and position your hands behind the head. Bend forward so your head is down and then lift the chest up. It is important to keep the head in line with the neck. There should be no hyper extension of the neck or head.

2b. Mat or Swiss ball Abdominal Crunch 

Mat – Lying on the mat with knees bent and hands behind your head. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground. Hold for 1 sec and then lower. 

Swiss Ball – Position the ball in the lower back area, hands are behind the head and lean back. Lift the chest up approximately 30°, hold for 1 sec and then lower.

2c. Mat or Swiss Ball Abdominal Oblique Crunch Mat- Similar to Abdominal crunch but cross your leg in a figure 4 position and lift shoulder blades off the floor and then twist so elbow of arm moves towards the figure 4 knee. Hold for 1 sec and then lower. Once you are finished your set of reps change legs and repeat.Swiss Ball – Similar to abdominal crunch but when you lift your chest twist to the side as well and hold for 1 sec before lowering.
2d. Lateral Abdominal Hip Dips From a side lying position lift up onto your elbow so you are in a side lying plank position and then lower your hip to just above the floor and then return to plank position. When you have completed your reps turn to the other side and repeat.
3. Planks (Core)
3a. Prone (face down) Plank Lie straight out with your weight balanced on your toes and forearms. It is important to keep your stomach tucked in (pull in your belly button). Hold for up to 60 sec.
3b. Side Lying Plank Lie on your side and then lift yourself up so you are balanced on the side of your feet and forearm. Hold for up to 60 sec and then repeat on the opposite side.


Poor posture has become more common place in our society due to our sedentary nature of sitting in front of the TV and computer for hours at a time. Unfortunately, poor posture habits are established relatively early in our lives and are difficult to change and correct. However, a conscious awareness of good posture while we sit, stand and walk along with frequent stretching and performing simple but effective upper back and core exercises can have a significant effect on preventing continued deterioration of your posture and the negative health effects associated with poor posture.

If you’d like more info please contact Mike.

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