There are a number of reasons why exercises to improve posture need to play a part in your workout routine.
Good posture is useful to help avoid injury, boost confidence and increase mobility. While the best supplements for joints can be a useful addition to a healthy lifestyle, working on good posture is key for joint health.
What exactly is posture? You may have been told to sit up straight as a child, perhaps now you find yourself compromising your posture with uncomfortable sitting positions at work, or even out and about – say, looking down at your phone as you walk.
The good news is that improving poor posture, as well as maintaining good posture, is easily done. Bad posture can be rectified with simple lifestyle changes, as well as easy exercises.
Here, we delve into the importance of good posture and share some expert-approved exercises that can help.
Why is good posture important?
Having good posture is important as it contributes to your overall health and wellbeing. Although good posture offers physical and psychological advantages, it is something we continually have to work on, according to David Wiener, a training and nutrition specialist for AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics (opens in new tab).
“Even by standing up tall, there can be a 30% increase in your ability to bring in oxygen to your body. Furthermore, it helps your internal organs to align correctly, and your stomach, intestines, and liver to function properly.”
In the long term, bad posture can lead to issues such as pain, muscle tension, medical conditions, joint pain and fatigue.
“It can also lead to more serious problems, such as your ability to breathe deeply and fill your lungs. This is because when you slouch, you shorten the muscles at the front of your body, reducing your ability to breathe in properly. It can also disrupt your gastrointestinal system, which can lead to digestive distress, such as constipation and acid reflux,” says Wiener.
Then there’s the confidence-boosting ability of good posture. A study in Neuro Regulation (opens in new tab) found that posture has the ability to affect our confidence, as those who sat up straighter, found difficult tasks easier.
It’s easy to develop bad posture, without even realising it.
“There are a number of things that can ruin your posture, such as negative lifestyle habits, injury, illness or even your genetics,” says Wiener.
“If you’re sitting at a desk all day, you may find yourself leaning forward or slouching in your chair, which contributes to bad posture. It can also be caused by some muscles being too tight and the opposite muscles being too weak. This is what leads us to slouch and could cause aches and pains,” he says.
He adds that even your choice of clothing can lead to bad posture.
“Wearing a heavy backpack, carrying your handbag on one side, or ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to or add to the problem,” he says.
To improve your posture, it’s important to focus on strengthening the weaker muscles and stretching the tight muscles. Here, Wiener shares the best exercises to improve posture.
1. Face pulls
Wiener says that this exercise can increase shoulder health and encourage healthy movement patterns which is ideal for someone that sits for long periods of time.
“For even more resistance, this can be done with an exercise band.”
Start standing, with one of the best resistance bands looped around a pole at shoulder height. Grab the band in the middle with both hands, maintain a tight core and flat back, and pull the band towards your neck, keeping your elbows splayed out as you do so.
2. Dead bugs
“Dead bugs are an incredible exercise for working out the abdominal muscles and building up a strong core, which is essential for healthy postural endurance,” says Wiener.
Begin by lying on your back, with your arms straight overhead and your legs bent above your hips. Straighten one leg until it rests just above the ground and bring the opposite arm overhead just above the ground. As you do this move, always keep your lower back and shoulders on the ground. Bring your leg and arm back to centre and as you do so, lower the other leg and arm down. Keep alternating sides.
Aim for 10 reps on each side.
3. Elevated split squats
Wiener says that not only does this lower body exercise work to strengthen the quads, glutes, and calves, but it also helps with supporting a strong core.
Begin by standing upright with your left leg straight and right foot behind you on a step or bench. Keep your shoulders above your hips as you bend your left knee until the upper leg is parallel with the floor. Keep your knee in line with your toes. Then, push up through the front foot to rise.
Aim for 8 reps on each leg.
4. Bent over rows
“This is a shoulder and back exercise that’s excellent for improving your posture as it strengthens the muscles you need to be able to lift your arms properly,” says Wiener. “When people have bad posture, they tend to find their shoulders rolled forward, and the best way to fix that is by working on your back muscles and strengthening them.”
Start by gripping a barbell with hands wider than shoulder width. The barbell should be hanging down in front of you. Push hips back, and keep an engaged core and back as you lower your torso down until it’s at a 45 degree angle to the ground. Pull the barbell up to touch the bottom of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades behind you. Pause, then slowly lower the bar down.
Aim for 10 reps.
“Not only does this exercise help you develop strength in your back and core, but it will also relieve any pain you are feeling throughout your body,” says Wiener. Plus, it works some extra magic by helping strengthen your shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
Lie face down on a mat. Push yourself up and prop your body on your forearms and your toes, keeping your body in a straight line with the core engaged. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
The Superman exercise is great if you’re experiencing back pain through bad posture.
“It’s the ultimate strengthening and stability exercise that strengthens all your lower back muscles, which is at the centre of your flexibility and posture,” says Wiener.
Start by lying on your stomach with arms lying either side of your body. Pushing your hips into the ground, slowly lift the knees, shoulders, upper back and arms off the ground, keeping your legs straight. Hold this for 10 seconds, then lower down.
7. Shoulder Pull-ups
“Pull-ups are a great exercise as they work on your back and arm muscles,” says Wiener. “Consistently doing pull-ups is a great way to ensure you are correcting your posture as you are using your core throughout the exercise while maintaining correct shoulder alignment.”
Gripping onto a bar above you, start in a passive hang, arms and legs straight. You should be gripping the bar with hands wider than shoulder-width, palms facing away from you. Keep your arms straight, feet off the ground, and pull shoulder blades down and together. Pause, then return to the passive hang.
Aim for 5 reps. Still learning how to do pull ups? You can use a resistance band or machine before progressing onto bodyweight.
Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun.
She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.