Dump the Slump, Feel Better
Around-the-house exercises to improve your posture
Little did you know that when your mother told you to sit up straight, it could help you avoid health problems. We now understand that poor posture—a common byproduct of sitting at a desk or computer for extended periods of time, and watching hours of television each week—causes more mental and physical health complications than most people realize. In addition to back, neck, and shoulder pain, slumped posture can lead to fatigue, headaches, and digestion problems, worsen depression and stress, and more.
Using sheer willpower to force yourself to sit straight and stand without slouching sounds like an obvious solution, but it usually takes more than this. An old slouching habit is difficult to break because your body has adapted to this position. In addition to changing things that create postural strain, such as reaching too low for a computer mouse, try these simple posture improvement exercises.
1. The chin tuck addresses forward head posture (“text neck”), which can lead to shoulder hunching. Think of the Mr. Burns character on The Simpson’s TV show and you get the picture. Sit up straight, but not stiffly. Use a mirror if possible to see if you are aligned properly. Use your neck muscles to pull your chin inward until your ears are over your shoulders. Imagine someone is pushing on your nose. Keep your eyes and head level. Your head should glide back, not up or down. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the starting position.
2. Use the doorframe stretch to loosen up chest muscles, which may be pulling your shoulders forward. Line your elbows and hands up with the door frame and step through, going only until there’s a stretch. Don’t force your way through if there’s pain. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
3. Wall slides strengthen muscles within the mid back and surrounding scapular (shoulder) region. Stand with your back to a wall while trying to keep your upper back and bottom in contact with the wall. Walk your feet about 12 inches away from the wall. Lift your hands over your head and try to press your forearms into the wall. Slide your arms up and down the wall, by squeezing your shoulder blades. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your arms to the wall; focus on your scapular movement. Start with one set of 10 reps. Work your way up to two or three sets.
By Annette Brooks