Standing tall and straight makes you look and feel more confident. But that isn’t the only reason not to slouch. Over time, slouching can cause problems with your back and your joints and other areas of the body. These problems lead to less flexibility and reduced muscle strength. You need both to keep up with a fitness routine that helps you look and feel you best. In short, good posture is one of the foundations of good health. Here’s how to improve yours with exercise.
Fix for rounded shoulders
Lie on your stomach on a towel or mat with arms extended at a 90-degree angle. Without changing the angle of your elbow, raise your arms by pulling your shoulders back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds. That’s one rep; repeat for two or three sets of 12 reps 3 to 4 times weekly.
Why it works: It strengthens the middle and lower parts of your trapezius (the large muscle along your shoulders and back).
Fix for rounded back
Lie on your back with knees bent and hands behind your head. Place your feet flat on the ground, and make sure your lower back remains pressed into the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your navel in toward your spine. Pull one knee towards your chest while extending the other leg 45 degrees from the floor. You will look like you are doing a modified bicycle exercise. Switch legs and repeat for 10 extensions on each side.
Why it works: Strengthens abdominal muscles and stabilizes your pelvis.
Fix for slumping posture
Get two small dumbbells and stand with spine straight and feet shoulder width apart. Relax your shoulders. Slowly bend from the waist so that the weight moves down along the outside of your leg, then return to the starting position. Continue for 10 to 15 reps and then repeat on the other side.
Why it works: Strengthens obliques
Fix for sway back (hips pushed forward)
Lie with your back on a mat and extend your arms out from your sides with palms facing down.
With knees slightly bent lift your legs until your heels are about 6 inches off the ground.
Now lift your left leg to a 45-degree angle while your right leg hovers 2 inches from the mat.
Repeat with the opposite legs. Continue for 10 to 15 reps.
Before you get started, check your posture in the bathroom or gym mirror. Take special note of the alignment of your hips and spine. Notice if your shoulders or back are rounded or straight. As you strengthen your core with these exercises you should begin to notice improvements. Steal a glance at yourself whenever there is a full-length mirror around and straighten up when you catch yourself slouching.