How to Improve Your Posture at Home
Bad posture is a common problem in the UK, but also one that is easily fixed. If you suffer from tiredness, muscle strain and stiff joints, there’s a chance you could help all three simply by learning how to improve your posture!
Walking with good posture gives you more confidence, less pain and better health. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a guide to achieving the ideal posture when you’re sitting, walking and standing, as well as simply exercise tips and what you should avoid to make the whole process quicker and simpler.
Why you should try to improve your posture
Bad posture can cause:
- Chronic back, neck and shoulder pain
- Digestion problems
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Nerve compression
If you regularly wake up with aches and pains, or get home from work feeling more tired than usual, your posture could be the culprit. Thousands of us across the country suffer from neck, back, shoulder, and foot pain, as well as headaches and fatigue that can be eliminated with better posture to alleviate muscle strain.
Test your posture
Before you start learning how to improve your posture, you need to find out what it’s like right now. Put on fitted clothes so you can clearly see you body’s outline, then stand barefoot on firm ground, adopting your natural stance. Ask someone to take a body photo of you from the front, back and side so you get a full view of how you stand to assess your posture.
When you have your photos, look out for these posture problems:
- Hips forward in front of your ribs.
- Too much of a curve in the lower back with pelvis tilted forward.
- Shoulders sitting in front of ears.
- Ears ahead of your shoulders.
- Uneven shoulders or hips.
- Head tilted to one side.
- Feet turned in.
- Feet turned out.
Think your shoulders are rounded? Stand in front of mirror and let your arms hang by side. If your knuckles face forward, you could have too weak or too tight muscles in your arms and upper body which force your shoulders out of their natural alignment. Doing arm, back and chest stretches will help strengthen this area of your body and realign your shoulders.
If you want improved posture, you need to start at the basics. Get your standing posture right is all about position and balance, where your shoulders are straight and squared with your head upright and neck/back/heels aligned. Here’s how you should stand for an ideal posture:
- Stand straight with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart and not turned in or outwards.
- Your weight should rest on the balls of your feet (not on your heels, which is what makes your body slouch).
- Keep your knees unlocked and bend them slightly.
- Evenly distribute your weight on each leg.
- Shrug your shoulders to loosen them up and let your arms fall naturally.
- Square your shoulders and pinch your shoulder blades together (just slightly).
- Your head should be upwards and held evenly with your chin parallel to the floor.
- Tuck in your abdomen, but don’t tilt your pelvis in any direction.
The right standing posture will also make you look leaner and taller with an added air of confidence, so it’s definitely worth working at to get it right.
Whether it’s at work, in the car or just at home; most of us spend a lot of the day sitting. So, you need to make sure that you don’t ruin the posture improvements you’ve made by sitting incorrectly.
Mastering how to sit properly is easy. Firstly, make sure you use a chair that’s designed to support your back. Most companies have an HR department that can sort out an assessment of your seating area, so ask if they can check that your seat is suitable for your weight and height.
Once you know you have the right chair, check off these tips to make sure you know how to sit properly for good posture:
- Sit with your shoulders straight and squared.
- Keep your head as upright as possible at all times.
- Align your back with the back of your chair (this stops you from leaning forward).
- Tilt your computer screen slightly upwards, as this will force you to sit straight if you want to see it properly.
- Place both feet fully on the ground or footrest (not dangling).
We spend hours every day on our computers or watching TV, so getting the right seated posture is essential to maintaining a proper stance and reducing the risk of strain and injury. (When you’re driving, make sure your head is in the middle of the headrest and sit with your back against the back of the seat. Also, you shouldn’t have to point your toes to reach the pedals or stretch your hands for the wheel).
If you have to sit for long periods, this doesn’t have to have a negative effect on your improved posture. Just make sure to stand and walk about every so often to loosen your muscles.
We’ve covered standing and sitting, so now it’s time for walking. If you’re looking to improve your posture, keep your head up, shoulders back and chest out, letting your arms swing in rhythm to your walk. Don’t physically push your head forward, but try to keep your head level with your chin parallel to the ground.
Walking with excellent posture not only lowers fatigue and back pain, but also makes you look and feel confident which is a great mood booster!
Avoid slouching whenever you can. It’s easy to hunch over, especially when you’re tired, but correctly aligning your body will actually reduce muscle strain and help you keep going for longer.
An easy way to improve your posture is imagining that there’s a piece of string emerging from the top of your head and gently pulling you upwards, which makes your brain tweak your posture to the correct position. If you’d prefer something more tangible, why not practice walking with a book balanced on your head? Walking correctly should help it stay in place and you can time yourself to see your posture improving.
Even when you’re asleep, there’s time to improve your posture. Use a firm mattress for maximum back support and don’t have too many pillows, as this will bend you head unnaturally resulting in a sore neck and a much harder job to stand and walk with your improved posture the next day. Sleeping on your back with a cushion under your knees keeps your shoulders straight. But if you prefer to rest on your side, put a small pillow between your knees to align your spine during the night.
- Use a gym mat or carpeted floor and get into a push-up position.
- Lower yourself down and bend your elbows, so that you’re resting your weight on your forearms.
- Make sure your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
- Pull your hips up so that your body is in a straight line.
- Hold the position for as long as you can.
Dumbbell side bends
- Pick up a dumbbell and hold it in in your left hand (palm facing your body).
- Put your right hand on your waist and place your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Head up and back straight, slowly bend at the waist to your left.
- Bend as far as you can before slowly returning to the start position.
- Repeat for a set and then swap hands, so you work both sets of oblique muscles.
- Strengthening your back is crucial to good posture and reduced back pain.
- Lie face down and stretch your arms over your head.
- Lift your shoulders gently off the floor as far as you can.
- Return to starting position and repeat.
- The best thing about this exercise is that you can do it at your desk at work.
- Breathe in and lift your shoulders towards your ears. Hold for five seconds.
- Exhale and bring your shoulder blades down and together.
- Do this ten times.
If you have time, why not join a yoga class? Yoga is ideal for improving posture as it strengthens your core and boosts balance.
Don’t lift or carry heavy weights unnecessarily. Remember, bend at the knees so that your leg and stomach muscles bear the strain and not your back. As you hold the object, keep the weight close to your chest to ensure you engage your lower back as little as possible and let your arms, chest, and upper back take the weight instead.
It isn’t easy to retrain your body and improving your posture takes time. Once you’ve assessed your posture and had a go at getting the perfect walking, standing and seated stance, just keep practicing.
We suggest standing with your back against a wall, making sure it touches the back of your head, shoulders and backside. This feels uncomfy at first, but it’s actually the right way to stand and a great way to get your body used to standing correctly unaided. Every so often, practice sitting following our instructions or walk about the living room using the guidelines above to make sure you’re constantly training your body and don’t forget a step.