How to Improve Your Posture, Because We’re Pretty Much All Guilty of Slouching

Most of us are guilty of slouching. You may have been doing it more frequently recently and are wondering how to improve your posture. Now that many of us spend more time at home, good posture is even more vital... You probably don't give a second thought to whether or not you're sitting upright every second of the day. And it’s just so easy to slump over your computer while working or watching videos.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, posture includes not only how you sit and stand, but also how you move and hold your body during every activity, including sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, paying more attention to our posture can reduce our risk of developing various aches and pains, balance issues, and even breathing problems in the long run (NIH).

Hearing that you should improve your posture versus knowing how to do so are two different things. As a result, we sought advice from experts on how to better your posture.

What exactly is posture?

It's just your body's alignment at any particular time, as previously stated. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are two types of posture. The most common type of posture is static posture, which relates to how your body is positioned whether sitting, standing, or sleeping. Dynamic posture, on the other hand, defines your body's stance when moving, such as during a jog.

Tyler R. Koski, M.D., co-director of the Northwestern Medicine Spine Center, tells SELF that good posture benefits your joints, muscles, spine, tendons, and ligaments. When you hunch over your computer daily—or indulge in other types of poor posture that we'll discuss—you're placing undue stress on certain vital body components. This can cause broad body discomfort, especially in the neck, shoulders, back, knees, and hips, over time. Bad posture can also throw off your balance, causing you to fall or stumble more frequently. According to the National Institutes of Health, improper body alignment can squeeze your diaphragm and create breathing issues.

What factors contribute to poor posture?

Many people have been slouching for years and have never fixed it. Mike Murray, M.D., an orthopedic physician in Pennsylvania, tells SELF, "Poor posture is typically a poor habit that someone gets into."

Then, according to Dr. Murray, we continue to practice these behaviors in many of our everyday tasks. He says that texting while bent over your phone is a frequent problem. Another significant one is working at a workstation that isn't set up to promote proper posture. (Don't worry; we'll cover some basic ergonomics in a moment.)

People with certain health problems are more likely to have poor posture. According to the Mayo Clinic, persons with scoliosis have curved spines, which can make their shoulders, waists, and hips unequal, making it difficult to maintain correct posture. According to the Mayo Clinic, ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory condition that causes some of the interconnecting bones in the spine to fuse, causing individuals to hunch over.

What can you do to keep a good standing posture?

In general, you should stand in a way that supports your spine's curvature. According to the National Institutes of Health, your spine has three natural curves: one at the neck, one in the midback, and one in the lower back. Each of these curves is maintained by good posture. According to the National Institutes of Health, when standing, your head should be above your shoulders and the tops of your shoulders should be over your hips. According to Christopher Wolf, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, "if your head is up, your shoulders will move back, and you'll retain the most natural neck and [back] alignment for you." It could assist if you remember to maintain your earlobes in line with your shoulders.

Standing with most of your weight on the balls of your feet and letting your arms hang naturally at your sides is also part of proper alignment. To prevent arching your back, tuck your tummy in and maintain your feet roughly shoulder-width apart to ensure your weight is equally distributed.

What can you do to keep a decent sitting posture?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when sitting, your back should be straight, your shoulders should be back, and your buttocks should contact the back of your chair. Dr. Wolf notes that many individuals slouch when they sit and pressing your buttocks to the back of the chair helps prevent this and provides back support.

Although it's natural to cross your legs, the Cleveland Clinic advises keeping both feet flat on the floor, knees bent at right angles, and hips at roughly the same height. According to Dr. Wolf, crossing your legs alters your pelvic position, which might damage your lower back alignment.

Beyond that, you should avoid sitting for lengthy periods, so take a brief stroll every 30 minutes or so, or simply get up and move about. Dr. Koski explains that sitting in one position causes tension and strain in one region.

A conventional workstation and adjustable-height chair can assist promote healthy posture, but not everyone has access to one. The Mayo Clinic recommends adjusting the height of your chair so that your knees are roughly level with your hips. They also suggest relaxing your shoulders and, if feasible, resting your elbows and arms on your chair or desk. At the very least, you may avoid leaning forward by bringing your chair as near to your desk or table as possible. (Read about our best ergonomic chair selections if you're looking to make your home office comfier.) There are alternatives to suit a variety of budgets, like this $60 mesh chair from Best Office Store.

Even when sleeping, you may maintain proper posture.

Although you usually fall asleep in whichever position feels most comfortable at the moment, your sleeping position is a sort of posture. If any part of your spine hurts when you wake up, from your neck to your lower back, it's time to try alternative sleeping positions. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some patients with lower back discomfort find that sleeping on their backs is more pleasant. Keep in mind that if you have any sleep-related issues, your results may vary. Sleeping on one's side or stomach, for example, is suggested for those with sleep apnea, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, although preferences vary. If you don't have any health issues that might affect your sleeping position, or if you don't have any bodily pains, John Hopkins Medicine suggests that you don't need to modify your sleeping position.

Dr. Murray advises that you support your back regardless of your sleeping position. “Your hips and shoulders should be level, and your neck should be in a neutral position,” he says.

Here are a few more suggestions for improving your posture.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one of the numerous benefits of yoga is improved posture. To be clear, any activity that requires you to focus on form can help you be more aware of your body posture. Yoga, on the other hand, is particularly beneficial since it emphasizes bodily awareness. You may also practice core exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back, abdomen, and pelvis, which will help to support your spine and improve your posture.

Of course, if you sit in front of the computer all day, you won't notice whether your posture needs improvement. That's why Neel Anand, M.D., director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, suggests monitoring your posture throughout the day. “When you get a chance, look in the mirror to get a good picture of your stance and adapt accordingly,” he advises SELF. You may also do this if you come across a mirror to check your standing posture. Once you've got a sense of how good posture feels on your body, you'll be able to spot-check yourself throughout the day and make adjustments as needed.

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