Beat that slouch, because it's not only ungainly, it can affect your health.
Modern living has ensured that we almost certainly are not as active as previous generations. All of us spend long hours sitting at desks, in front of computers, in cars and in front of the TV. In these situations, we are not using our muscles as nature originally intended, leading to bad posture.
Bad posture can take a serious toll on your spine, shoulders, hips and knees with short-term discomfort such as stiffness in the neck and headaches. It can also cause neck pain, back pain and reduced flexibility. On the other hand, good upright posture will minimise excessive strain on your muscles and joints, optimise breathing and circulation and help keep the skeletal system strong and in alignment. It also enhances your personality and beauty. Following are a few easy-to-do exercises to improve posture:
- Core exercises: The core muscles -- lower back and abdominal muscles -- are majorly responsible for posture. A weak posture means a weak core. Exercises like abdominal floor crunches, hyperextensions, and some yoga and pilates postures help to strengthen the core. Another good way to strengthen your core is to use an exercise ball as your chair for at least 30 minutes once or twice a day. As the exercise ball is not stable, your body needs to try to balance itself on it. This helps strengthen your core and forces proper spine alignment.
- Chin tucks: Many people have a tendency to slouch their heads forward. When the head falls forward, the neck is less stable and more pressure is placed on the joints of the neck. To counteract this tendency, you can do this simple neck exercise called chin tucks. Sit in a chair with your shoulders down and back. Gently push your chin forward and exaggerate bad posture, then tuck in your chin. Hold the tucked position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times. This will strengthen your deep neck muscles that help to maintain the correct postural position.
- Trunk curls: Lie on your back on the floor, with knees bent. Position your hands behind your head. Using your upper abdominal muscles, raise your trunk off the floor to about 20 degrees, as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with your chest. Hold for 5 seconds and then lie down slowly. Repeat eight to 10 times.
- Breastbone lift: The breastbone lift is a good exercise to strengthen your lower trapezius muscles (a large superficial muscle that spans the neck, shoulders and upper back). While still in the sitting position, gently lift your breastbone a few inches higher, while squeezing both of your shoulders backwards.
- Pelvic tilt: The pelvic tilt strengthens your abdominals and stabilises your posture by developing the core muscles of your body. To perform this exercise, lie on the floor with your knees bent. Without using your buttocks and leg muscles, tighten your lower abdominal muscles and pull your navel and lower back towards the floor. Hold for five seconds and repeat the exercise eight to 10 times.
- Arm/leg raises: This is a simple exercise to strengthen your lower back and support good posture. Lie face down on the floor with your arms straight overhead and legs extended. Slowly raise your left arm and right leg about six inches off the ground. Hold for five seconds and repeat the same with the opposite combination. Do sets of 10 repetitions for each side.
- Shoulder squeeze: Shoulder squeeze is an exercise to correct your shoulder posture. To perform this exercise, sit on a chair and place your hands on your thighs. Keep your shoulders straight. Gradually move your shoulders backwards and compress the shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds and repeat it five to eight times. This exercise is also good for your spine flexibility.
- Abdominal pull-in: Sit straight and inhale deeply. While exhaling count to five and pull your stomach in. Repeat several times and relax.
- Chin glide: The chin glide is a good exercise to curb your tendency to stick your neck out and unnaturally forward. Stand with your head held straight and shoulders relaxed. Slowly glide your head backwards until you feel a little stress. Do not tilt your head while moving your head backward. Hold this position for about 10 seconds and repeat it three to five times. You can perform this exercise at various intervals throughout the day.