Stop Slouching! 5 Ways to Improve Your Posture

by Chris Birk on 11 May 2011 6 comments

Forget the start of barbecue season.

The month of May is all about bad backs and slouched shoulders.

At least, that's the hope of chiropractic organizations, which have pushed to rechristen May as "National Correct Posture Month." Doesn't have a springtime ring to it, but the reality is that scores of Americans exhibit poor posture, which can directly impact their health. Studies have indicated links between good posture and good health, and that's become an increasingly important relationship in a sedentary age of iPads and cubicle farms. (See also: Fitness for People Who Hate Exercise)

"When you are in good posture, it's as if you've lost 10 pounds," Patrice Winter, a physical therapist in Fairfax, VA, and a spokeswoman for the American Physical Therapy Association, told USA Today last year.

The flip side isn't as pleasant. Bad posture can trigger significant back and neck pain and actually contribute to more serious problems in the digestive and cardio-pulmonary systems. Not to take money from the pockets of hard-working chiropractors, but correcting your posture is mostly a matter of commitment and conscious effort.

Here's a look at five ways to improve your posture.

Sit With Support

Office jobs can be killer on one's posture. Ideally, you're sitting in a fancy office chair that provides sufficient lumbar support. But that isn't often the case. At least make sure you're sitting in a high-backed chair that offers solid support. Keep your back straight against the chair, with your hips as far back as possible. Sandwich a towel, pillow or other soft implement between the chair back and your own if there isn't enough support for your lower back.

Mind Your Feet

Spending money on high-quality shoes is always a good idea. But if that isn't your style, at least forgo the flip-flops, high heels, and other support-less footwear a vast majority of the time. Settle on shoes that provide legitimate arch support. Some health experts urge women to stay away from heels any taller than one inch in height.

Take a Walk

Office-park workers, college kids, and others who spend inordinate amounts of time sitting at their desks must make time to stretch their legs. Sitting for long periods of time encourages slouching. Get up from your desk and take a brief stroll at least once an hour. Workers should also check to see if a stand-up desk is an acceptable alternative. Not only will moving and standing improve your posture, but it might actually save your life. Recent studies have shown that people who sit for most of the day are way more likely to die of a heart attack.

Make It a Focus

Posture isn't something most people think about during the course of a day. Routinely force yourself to step back and examine your current posture. Take a long, hard look in a mirror and scrutinize your typical stance. Tuck in your chin, pull in your stomach muscles, and stretch the spine. Fasten a couple prominent messages to your desk as constant reminders. Clue in your friends and ask them to play "posture police" when they see you slouching.

Strengthen Your Core

Exercise should be a part of your daily life for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that it will help improve your posture. Even simple exercises meant to build your core and strengthen abdominal and back muscles can make a huge difference. Pilates, yoga, and similar exercise courses are all great ways to get fit and improve your posture.

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Guest's picture
Andrea

Great Article, before reading it I was slouching in front of my computer, now I'm sitting with my back straight against the chair.

Thanks for the info! :-)

Guest's picture
Lee Olson DC

for good posture sit and stand with the top of your head raised as high as comfortably possible. The shoulders and abdomen will end up where they should. Good sitting posture is shown by classical musicians.
If orthotics are necessary, you know you have the proper one when you stand with them in your shoes and you feel taller--sometimes much taller

Guest's picture

Love the tips! Every so often I change up my computer chair or an exercise ball. This helps me greatly with my posture and changes things up so I get proper circulation throughout the lower half of my body.

Guest's picture
James

Here are two tips that have really helped me:
1) When sitting, make sure your knees are below your waist (with feet further back under the chair). It is a natural prompt to sit straighter.
2) When standing, a small box or step that you can put one foot on will improve posture.

Guest's picture
Agatha

I have had problems with my back the past few days. Thanks for the tips. They are helpful.

Guest's picture
Guest

Try walking with a book on your head or looking at some yoga videos on youtube for the neck and back