UNKNOWN to many of us, our everyday activities — from long hours hunched over our desks at work, to slouching on our couches as we binge watch TV and scroll through social media — lead to poor posture. Poor posture, contrary to popular belief, does not only affect our appearance; it can also trigger the onset of health complications including imbalance, breathing difficulties, neck and back pains, as well as muscle strain and injury.
On the bright side though, personal trainer and fitness guru Gisel Harrow says your rounded shoulders, hunched stance and associated medical challenges don't have to be permanent. Below, she shares five exercises that can help you to improve your posture.
“Planks are one of the simplest exercises you can include in the exercise regimen that gives you plenty of health benefits, including that it contributes to better posture when done correctly,” Harrow said. To complete this exercise, get down on all fours, then straighten your legs, lift your heels and raise your hips. Once in this position, straighten your back and engage your abdominal, arm, and leg muscles. Now lengthen your neck, keep your chest open, and look down on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute for three repetitions at a time.
This position helps lengthen and stretch the spine. To do this, you will start on your hands and knees, with your knees as far as shoulder-width apart. Then, extend your arms straight out toward the front. Now, slowly drop your hips back to rest on your heels. Hold this pose and take five to 10 deep breaths. Repeat daily for five to 10 minutes.
Thoracic spine rotation
This technique helps improve mobility in your torso and reduces stiffness in the mid-to-lower back. Start by lying on your right side with your fingers spread slightly. Stretch both arms out in opposing directions, keeping your back against the floor. Now, rotate your left elbow to the sky while exhaling and stretching the front of your torso. Hold for one deep breath — inhale and exhale slowly. Return to the starting position and repeat for five to 10 breaths. Switch arms and repeat.
“This exercise allows you to open and stretch your chest. This is especially useful if you spend most of your day sitting, which tends to make your chest move inward. Strengthening your chest also helps you stand up straighter,” Harrow said. To complete this technique, stand up tall with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your arms behind you and interlock your fingers with your palms pressing together. Grasp a towel if your hands don't reach each other and keep your head, neck, and spine in one line as you gaze straight ahead. Now, inhale as you lift your chest toward the ceiling and bring your hands toward the floor. Breathe deeply as you hold this pose for five breaths. Release and relax for a few breaths. Repeat five to 10 times.
Goal post squeeze
To complete this technique, get a chair and sit on it upright. Now lift your arms into a goal post position with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, even with your shoulders. With your hands in this position, relax your shoulders, and then pull the elbows towards the back of the room. While completing this motion visualise a ball between your shoulder blades as you work the upper back. Now, release and repeat 10 times.