How to Improve Your Posture
Whether you seek professional evaluation or not, there's a lot you can do on your own to improve poor posture and help maintain good posture, including the steps below. One important element: maintain a healthy weight. Being very overweight can cause or worsen poor posture. Regular exercise can help improve posture as well as weight control and overall health.
Improving Posture while Standing and Walking
- Think about your feet, and evaluate your footwear. Foot painand the posture changes it causesmay simply mean that you’re wearing the wrong shoes. It may also mean that you need evaluation by a podiatrist. Avoid high heels and worn-out shoes.
- Think tall. Imagine a wire attached to the top of your head, pulling it upward.
- Avoid standing or walking swaybackthat is, with an extreme curve in the lower back. Instead, lift your chest up, pull in your abdomen, and tuck in your buttocks.
- Practice tightening your abdominal muscles and flattening your stomach. Hold the position for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat occasionally throughout the day.
- When standing for long periods, try to stand evenly balanced on both feet. If you get tired, shift your weight from one foot to another. Occasionally rest one foot on a small stool, if available.
Improving Posture while Sitting
- For prolonged sitting, get an adjustable chair with good back support and armrests. Sit firmly back with your shoulders against the chair, your chest lifted, and upper back straight. Put a small lumbar roll against your lower back for additional support. Keep equal weight on your left and right buttocks. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your thighs horizontal. If the chair is too high for this, use a fat book or small stool as a foot rest. Take frequent breaks.
- When working at a desk, lean forward at your hips, bringing your trunk forward, rather than bending at the waist or neck. Don't look directly down at your work.
- When driving, position your seat so you can easily reach the wheel, as well as the accelerator and brake. Change the seat position occasionally, tilting slightly forward or back, if possible. Try a lumbar roll for your lower back. During a long trip, stop every couple of hours to rest and stretch. Practice good sitting posture while drivingdon't slump. Remember the imaginary wire at the top of your head, pulling it upward.
Improving Posture while Lying Down
- Make sure your mattress is comfortableit need not be hard, but it shouldn't sag. Back pain in the morning may be a sign that your bed or sleeping position is bad. Avoid too-thin or too-fat pillows.
Improving Posture while Lifting, Carrying
Beware of repetitive lifting or carrying objects that are too heavy for you. Long-term use of a heavy backpack or shoulder bag can cause posture problems.
Source: Originally published in The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (May 2011)