“Stand tall, sit up straight, no slouching at the dinner table” — how many times during your childhood did you hear these words from your mother?
Of course, you probably did what you were told… for about a minute — then you would go right back to slouching. Why? Maybe it was simply to irritate your parents or, perhaps, it was just the most comfortable position.
Fast forward 15 to 20 years, how is that posture now? Has it improved, remained the same, or become worse?
Maintaining good posture supports not just the natural curvature of your spine, but also the joints of your knees, hips and shoulders. When we mix hours of sitting in front of computers at work and at home with a sedentary lifestyle spent texting and messaging each other, we end up causing posture deterioration over the years.
Some of the main contributing factors to a less than optimal posture include:
- Poor sitting and standing habits
- Ergonomically incorrect foot wear (ladies, think of those five-inch heels you love to wear)
- Fear of being taller
- Weak back muscles
The next question is – what can you do about it?
Here are a few exercises to increase the strength of your back muscles, which are primarily responsible for your posture.
(1) Wall Slides
Stand with your upper back, buttocks and head against the wall, and your chin tucked in. Your feet should be a few inches away from the wall. Raise your arms to your sides, and keep the back of your hands and wrists flat against the wall, so that your palms are facing forward. Bend at your elbows, so that they are at a 90-degree angle. Now, from this starting position, simply slide the hands up and down the wall as far up as you can, without moving your palms inwards. On the way down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks and abs. Slowly use the muscles of your buttocks to lift you up while maintaining a neutral position of your spine. Hold for about two counts, then lower. Repeat this for two to three sets of 15 repetitions each.
Lay on your stomach, resting on your elbows and forearms and facing the floor. Keep your feet a shoulder-width apart and maintain a neutral spine position (no lines in the neck). Tighten your glutes and abs. Push your body up by pushing your forearms into the floor (keeping your spine neutral — think push-up position).
Generally, it is best to hold for 60 seconds without allowing any body part to sag. However, if that is too long, simply do your best and work your way up to one minute over time. Plank is one of the best exercises for developing core and specifically ab strength and, of course, better posture.
Lie face down with your legs together, arms straight in front with your neck and head in a neutral position, facing the floor. Once again, squeeze your glutes and abs. Simultaneously, lift your arms and thighs off the floor while contracting your abs and glutes (your head stays neutral the entire time).
Hold this position for two seconds and then slowly release. Repeat this 12-15 times or even more if you can. To switch up your program, hold for 10-20 seconds and then slowly release and repeat four to five times.
As you can see, by increasing the muscular strength in your back, which can be done at nearly any age, it is not too late to attain a good or even great posture.
Perhaps we have finally understood what our mothers taught us years ago about sitting up straight (of course, you would never admit that to her). Remember, although she may now have her wish granted, the exercises are for your benefit!