Gaining good posture is one of the most underrated ways to instantly change your appearance, and in time, your health.
Standing straight and square makes you look fitter and taller (and it improves your alertness and vitality to boot). But the effects aren’t just skin deep; over time, maintaining good posture will help keep your back strong, reducing back pain and injury.
By staying active and being mindful of your form, you can convince your body that it is years younger – and your appearance will follow suit.
Here are Five Steps to Have Good Posture
1. Stand up
How’s your posture right now? Are you slouching because you feel tired at the moment? You can perk up by standing up. Your blood vessels constrict during periods of inactivity, making you look and feel tired. An active, dynamic standing posture will reinvigorate you within minutes. Try lengthening your back while you stand, as if it were being lifted by a balloon tied to the back of your neck.
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2. Try out
If standing for a few minutes puts a spring back in your step, imagine how good an hour of activity might make you feel. Trying a new physical activity, especially one that requires attention to posture, will do wonders for your bearing and give you a renewed, youthful vigor as well.
Some sure bets for posture improvement are martial arts, yoga, rowing, and even lower impact activities like figure skating and tai chi. With time and practice, that good posture you learned on the rowing machine will bloom into a body awareness that will keep you looking sharp outside the gym.
3. Tone up
Planks, sit-ups, and your gym’s weight circuit can do more than just give you a killer six-pack – strengthening your core muscles will help you stay straight all day. Think of it as posture cross-training. You can even get great results from basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups and bridges if you want to get in shape at home without any equipment.
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Professional massages can peel off years of pent-up muscle soreness, and foam rollers are like massage therapists in a convenient cylindrical form. Daily foam roller use takes stress off of overused muscles, strengthens complementary muscles, and helps dissipate knots and tenderness.
You can promote healthy back elongation by lying on your back with the roller cushioning your spine and your arms to your sides. Flatten your spine against the roller as you exhale. You can also reduce upper spine hunching by lying with the roller across the farthest protruding part of your upper back (between your neck and the bottom of your shoulder blades) so that tension on the neck is relieved.
Given all of the sitting, slouching, and slumping that is endemic to most office jobs, work is a great place to undo all of your posture karma. Don’t let technology take its toll on you – be aware of your seated posture.
Your spine should be in contact with the backrest from your tailbone right up to your upper back. Make sure the center of your computer monitor is 6 inches below your gaze. If you frequently read from papers, tablets, or smartphones, bring the media up to you rather than craning to it.
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Correcting your posture is a fast, cheap, and healthy way to improve your health and your looks. Best of all, it becomes easier and more natural with practice. Make good posture part of your daily health practice, and you’ll stay healthy and looking great for years to come.
Dr. Moshe Lewis is the head of Alternative Health and Pain Management at St Lukes Hospital in San Francisco, CA, and co-host of Late Night Health, a wellness-oriented radio talk show.
Featured photo by Amelia Speed
Originally published 8/17/12 and updated by the Inspiyr team 6/18/13.