If your childhood was even remotely like mine, then you've probably heard your parents, grandparents, teachers and even friends go on and on about the importance of good posture — and you've probably endured their many lectures on how to improve your posture, too. In fact, you can probably still hear your mom's voice in your head beseeching you to "sit up straight!" any time you find yourself slouching in front of your computer. Furthermore, you're probably not even mad about it — because we all know that weak posture is uncomfortable, hard on the body, and, dare I say, often a bit unattractive to behold.
That said, it can be so easy to totally blow off thinking about your posture (especially in our smartphone-loving generation). After all, having good posture takes equal doses of practice and self-awareness — but you can achieve good posture with less work than you think. And having good posture is more important for your overall health and well-being than you think, too.
Weak posture can result in a wide array of health problems, from joint pain to cardiovascular and pulmonary issues. If your posture is weak enough for long enough, it can even lead to a collapsed chest, which ultimately messes up your breathing, forces your heart to work harder, makes you walk slower, look older, fall more easily and potentially even die sooner. So listen to what your mother/ballet instructor/most uptight teacher tried to tell you when you were a kid, and take your posture seriously. You should obviously consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, but give these nine ways to improve your posture a shot. You'll be balancing that book on your head in no time.
1. Do Yoga For Just Ten Minutes Every Day
You probably already know that the effects of yoga on the body are almost magical. I certainly can think of no other exercise routine that better connects my mind and body while managing to both restore and strengthen my frame. And on the days I skip out on my yoga time, my neck and shoulders feel 10 times worse than normal — but no matter how tight my upper body feels after writing for hours, just 10 minutes of yoga usually makes me feel pretty fantastic.
So if you don't already do daily yoga, give it a shot — not only does it improve flexibility, focus, and help with anxiety — it will improve your posture, too. You can find loads of great yoga poses for good posture on Pinterest, but this slideshow from Medical Daily is a great place to start, too.
2. Do Lots Of Shoulder Rolls
Rounded shoulders (shoulders slumped forward) are a common side effect of weak posture, and it's unfortunately one of the easiest and most harmful posture mistakes we can make. Rounded shoulders make it harder for us to breathe deeply, they push our hearts to work harder than they should have to, and they make us look (and even feel) older and less confident than we are. So if you've noticed you have rounded shoulders (I do, too), try doing shoulder rolls a few times every day.
Shoulder rolls are pretty self-explanatory, but I'll pass on HuffPost's explanation of how to do them anyway. Try this: roll your shoulders down and back, then pull your elbows back toward the back pockets of your pants. It should feel like you're pushing your heart up and out. (A word of warning: they may hurt a little at first, but then you'll feel awesome.)
3. Keep Your Chin Up
With all the Twittering, Tindering, and Facebooking we do these days, I feel like looking down too much is kind of inevitable. But while I feel so much love for my smartphone that I affectionately refer to it as my "muggle wand," I know that all the looking down I do is murder on my posture. If you also look down a lot — whether it's at your smartphone, your cat, your laptop, your kids or anything else — try to keep your chin pointed up as much as possible. It's an easy way to correct bad posture — and "text neck" is no joke.
4. Don't Cross Your Legs
Sitting with both of your feet planted on the floor can be annoying. But it's really the correct way to sit, and it's way better for your posture than crossing your legs at the knee, the ankle or anywhere else. So go ahead and forget all those times your grandmother told you sitting with your legs crossed was more ladylike — and ignore all those "sexy", iconic, leg-crossing film scenes (a la Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct), too. Because sitting with your legs crossed is actually pretty rough on your body — and everyone knows, it's hard to feel sexy with a bad back.
5. Try A Standing Desk...
My posture definitely suffers the most when I'm working on my laptop, because it forces me to look downward at least a little bit, and this move simultaneously rounds my shoulders and strains my neck. However, I love working on my laptop, and since I'm a writer, there's just no getting around it.
Fortunately, if you don't mind standing while you work, standing desks are a viable, posture-saving option for those of us who support ourselves via desk work. If you're a student, work a desk job, or work as a writer like me, then it may be worth your time and money to look into an affordable standing desk. Just be sure you're not standing too much, because although sitting all of the time is really bad for our health and our posture, standing too much can be just as rough on our bodies. Make sure to find a happy medium that includes plenty of sitting breaks.
6. ...Or Just Adjust Your Workstation
If you don't really like the idea of standing for however many hours it takes you to get your work finished (yeah, I'm with you on this one), then just adjust your workstation in a way that help you prevent strain on your neck, back and shoulders. How do you build a posture-saving workstation? Make sure your computer screen is level with your gaze, and try to keep your elbows and wrists at straight, 90-degree angels. You could also invest in a lumbar pillow, because it's easier to keep your spine straight when it's being properly supported.
7. Move Around A Lot
We've established that sitting is often the enemy where posture is concerned, so move around as much as you can, whenever you can — and try to be mindful of your posture and your breathing while you do it.
8. Go Barefoot When You Can
Standing and walking around in bare feet is the best way to strengthen the muscles in your feet and learn how to evenly distribute your body weight across your foot. Learning how to evenly distribute your body weight helps you to improve your posture.
Of course, unless you live somewhere rural, you probably shouldn't be walking around barefoot outdoors (because tetanus, and also ouch). But you can at least go barefoot when you're indoors. Personally, I think it's way more comfortable than wearing shoes, but it's without a doubt more sanitary, too.
9. Consider Seeing A Chiropractor
I'm by no means suggesting you make an appointment to see a chiropractor without talking it over with your primary care physician and doing research about chiropractors and what they do first. That said, chiropractors have really helped me with my posture and pain in the past, and they could help you, too, if you suffer from a lot of back pain or other pain related to posture.
If you do decide to start seeing a chiropractor though, remember to relax, and expect to be sore after you first adjustment.
You may not think of your posture very often, but good posture really is a life hack of the highest order. Who knew you could improve back pain, look taller and prevent a wide variety of health problems, just by keeping your chin up?