Perfecting Perfect Posture: Our Three Favorite Exercises

As a physical therapist, I spend much of my day educating patients on a variety of topics. Regardless of which part of the body is injured, talking about posture is ALWAYS part of the lesson plan. Our posture is the foundation for all of your movements. Think about it; how can you expect your body to function well without a strong foundation (i.e. posture)?

Our resting posture will vary greatly depending on each individual. Meaning “good posture” will look different from person to person. However, there are some common themes which we fall victim to, altering our natural posture. Poor posture develops over time and can likely be the cause of reoccurring episodes of neck, back, and shoulder pain. Luckily, your posture is within your control. By training specific muscles and improving your postural awareness, restoring your natural posture will come with ease.

What is Bad Posture?

The vast majority of us slouch, without even realizing it. If I had to guess, I bet you have re-adjusted your posture a few times already during this brief article. In a slouched posture, our head pushes forward, our shoulders creep forward and up, and the upper part of the back rounds. This posture over time can cause tightness in the chest, base of the skull, and weakness of the muscles in our back. Over time, our muscles become accustomed slouching, making sitting in upright posture seem impossible.

How do I work on my posture?

One way to combat our “bad” posture is to become aware of it throughout the day. Try sticking a post-it note with “posture” written on it at your workstation to give you a visual reminder. Or using a cue, such as the phone ringing or an email ping on your computer, to check your posture throughout the day. It is easy to become absorbed into your work when busy and suddenly hours have passed without moving. Instead, make a point to get up frequently (a least once an hour). Remember, nothing is more important than your own health, that phone call or email can wait while you take a quick lap around the office. Lastly, you can perform my three favorite posture exercise right from your desk to reduce tension on your neck, shoulders, and low back.

Military Posture:

Instructions: Try this exercise right from your desk. Pinch your shoulder blades together and down, keeping neck relaxed.
Hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat 10 times.
Complete throughout the day when feeling tight.

Gait Stretch:

Instructions: Stand at doorway with feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward. Place your right/left foot forward into the door frame, hands on doorway so elbows at shoulder height. Glide your whole body forward bending the front knee, keeping the back knee straight.
Repeat 10x each foot.
You can also use the corner of your office.


Chin Tuck:

Instructions: While sitting at your desk, tuck your chin toward your throat. Make sure to keep your eyes level (don’t look down or up).
Hold for 2-3 seconds.
Repeat 10 times.
Complete throughout the day when feeling tight.

By simply adding these stretches into your daily routine you should begin to notice that you feel less tense, have more energy, and can sit up at your desk a little easier.

References:
1. Baddeley B, Sornalingam S, Cooper M. Sitting is the new smoking: where do we stand? The British Journal of General Practice. 2016;66(646):258. doi:10.3399/bjgp16X685009.
2. Marshall S, Gyi D. Evidence of health risks from occupational sitting. Where do we stand? Am J Prev Med 2010;39(4):389-91.
3. Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR. Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323.

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