Six steps to better posture
Poor posture now can lead to big problems later on - including lots of aches and pains. Straighten up with these six simple exercises, designed to tackle the most common crimes against posture.
1. Sit up and take notice
There’s a reason we slump in a chair: it’s comfortable. We get used to sprawling and then our supporting muscles start losing strength. Over time, your muscles and soft tissue will start to feel the strain and eventually, you’ll feel pain.
Solve it: At first, sitting properly won’t be comfortable but working your core, buttock muscles and back extensions will soon put you back on track. Crunches are the best for powerful abs - but make sure you focus on technique.
Lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. It doesn’t matter where you have your hands but don’t grab tightly behind your head, causing your head to pull forward. Keep that spine line nice and straight. Curl up towards your knees until your shoulders are about 10cm from the floor. Hold for a few seconds and lower slowly. Do a total of 12 crunches for maximum effect.
2. Tuck your tail in
Does your bum stick out, with a deep curve in your lower back? High heels, weight on the tummy and pregnancy can all make this worse and lower back pain is no joke.
Solve it: Strengthen your lower back and core with the notorious plank.
Lay on your front, on your forearms and toes. Create a straight line from head to toe by raising your hips. Look at the floor, pull your abs in and keep them strong. Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat 8 - 10 times. (If it’s too difficult, modify the exercise by keeping your knees on the floor while you build up strength).
3. Stand proud
Do you round your shoulders and neck, slumping down? To hit ballerina-standard posture there’s nothing to beat the old trick of imagining there’s a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you upwards.
Perfect posture has relaxed shoulders, a pulled-in abdomen and evenly-distributed weight. Your head should be neutral, not tilted backwards, forwards or sideways and your knees should be bouncy and relaxed.
Solve it: Chest stretches are brilliant for opening up your chest and stopping the dreaded rounding. Clasp both hands behind your back and stretch your shoulders back and down. Don’t try to raise your hands behind your back - focus on opening and stretching your chest and shoulders.
4. Stand on your own two feet
When you’re standing around, do you tend to lean your weight on one leg, jutting out your hip? It might look sassy but you’re putting way too much pressure on one side of your lower back and hips.
This posture no-no is especially common in people who carry heavy bags on one shoulder or mums carrying children on one hip.
Solve it: Bridges are a great way to strengthen your buttocks and lower back. Lay on your back with your knees bent and heels flat on the floor, close to your bottom and shoulder width apart. Raise your hips so there’s a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. As you raise, gently tighten your abs and your bottom. Lower yourself in a controlled way to the start position and repeat 8 - 10 times.
5. Make like a swan
Whether you sit at a computer all day or you’re a demon texter, hunching over your phone, you’re at risk of ending up with a tight chest and later, a rounded upper back, with all the nasty back and shoulder pain that goes with it.
Solve it: The seated row machine is your best friend here; it stretches your chest and strengthens that vital mid-back section. Make sure you don’t lock out your knees and maintain a good back and neck position as you work through the exercise. Lean back in a controlled way and hold that position for a beat as you pull the handle towards your torso.
6. Get your motor running
Good posture when driving is important for the reasons we’ve already talked about - but it’s also vital because your car’s safety systems have been designed around people sitting in the seat properly. The better your sitting position, the better they’ll work in a collision.
Adjust your seat carefully, to make sure you’re the right distance from pedals and steering wheel. If you need to lean forward or point your toes, your seat is too far back. If you’re hunched over the wheel, you’re definitely too close.
Solve it: Always keep your back against the seat and adjust the headrest so your head is no more than 10cm away from it. Improve your overall posture between drives with yoga. Check out the classes available at your gym and devote at least an hour a week to yoga’s invaluable stretch and strengthen techniques.