MMemories of my mother telling me to “sit up straight!” It comes to mind whenever I think about my sometimes less-than-stellar posture. People younger than me might have thought it was a harmless quibble, but now that I’m in my thirties, I can really feel that back pain after sitting in the office. It’s hard to think that I should have given this advice a little more attention. (Okay, okay, I hear you, mom!)
According to the National Library of Medicine, proper posture can reduce back pain, a problem that affects more than a quarter of the working population. But while most of us know we should focus on keeping our bodies in alignment, how much should we? really Will it work? According to physical therapist Femi Betiku, DPT, a certified Pilates instructor at Club Pilates, the answer should be often — every day, to be exact.
“In addition to mindfulness to correct bad posture at work, home, driving, etc., I recommend doing posture exercises every day.” Dr. Betiku said. “Often, it takes a high frequency of repetition to build strength in these postural muscles, as well as a high frequency of cueing to correct posture throughout the day.”
This may seem like a big commitment, but it’s worth it when you consider the options. A slouched position puts extra stress on the muscles around the spine as well as our discs and ligaments, causing inflammation and pain. Poor posture can increase neck and shoulder muscle tension, leading to headaches and stiffness. Perhaps more surprisingly, Dr. Betiku explains that poor posture can lead to decreased lung capacity.
“Your overall fitness has a lot to do with your posture,” he says. “More research is coming out that shows that poor posture alone will affect one’s overall lung capacity.” When you slouch, your lungs constrict and you may experience shortness of breath. “Those with poor posture will not be able to experience optimal fitness through cardio training,” he adds.
The good news? Solving the problem of the mid-day haunch habit is fairly easy. It just takes adjustment and a little focus. “Postural exercises can be done literally anywhere,” says Dr. Betiku. “At work, when stopped at a red light, while cooking. It’s all about intention and awareness.”
Betikur top two posture exercises Dr
1. Draw your shoulder blades together
Sit up straight with your arms at your sides and hands resting in your lap, then focus on your shoulder blades and draw them together. “This will activate some of the major postural muscles in your upper back,” says Dr. Beticu. Hold the position for five deep breaths.
2. Stretch your upper back
Sit up straight and cross your arms over your chest. With your focus on the center of your back, stretch your upper back between your shoulder blades—”as if you’re shining your heart up at a forty-five-degree angle toward the ceiling,” says Dr. Betiku. Repeat three or five times.
For both exercises, try to do them once a day. Make it a part of your morning routine, every time you go to the bathroom or when you sit down after lunch. Once this becomes a daily habit, better posture will follow.