A fitness expert shares some ways to use exercise to improve posture and correct the effects that slumping and hunching over electronic devices can have on your body.

Proper posture represents the correct alignment of bones and joints while standing, sitting and moving. When standing or sitting, the head should be level, with ears aligned over the shoulders and the neck should be held in a slight natural back-to-front curve. This position helps keep muscles balanced and efficient — which is an important part of preserving neck, shoulder and low back health.

When posture is good, people tend to feel better, breathe easier and project confidence.

When posture is good, people tend to feel better, breathe easier and project confidence. Unfortunately, maintaining correct alignment is seriously challenged by the way many of us work and live. The hours we spend seated commuting and at work as well as relaxing tend to add up to a lot of slumping. The head moves forward, taking the neck and shoulders with it and gradually causes the back to round, too. Computers, tablets and smartphones create especially precarious conditions.

Since the body adapts to static positions, sitting slumped over for long periods can lead to poor posture. Muscles along the back of the neck and shoulders fight the pull of gravity on the head. They get stretched and weakened while the muscles on the front tighten. This adds up to muscle imbalances that cause dysfunction and a greater potential for pain.

Prevention of Bad Posture

One step to prevent poor posture is to introduce more movement into your daily routine. For office work, a sit-to-stand desk or adjustable desktop platform is a terrific option, if possible. If a sit-to-stand desk isn’t possible, set a reminder on your computer or phone to get up and move every 20 to 30 minutes. Even a very brief break can reset muscles and refresh your energy. Most importantly, be aware of gradual slumping so you shift your position and re-align. Whether at work or at home, reset your position frequently and take every opportunity to move.

Improve Posture through Exercise

Exercise can help correct the effects of poor posture. The right exercises for you will depend on exactly how your body had adapted, but here’s a progression that addresses common problem areas:


1. Use a tennis ball (or lacrosse ball) on chest, upper back and shoulders. Find a tender spot and hold steady pressure on it for 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Stretch the upper back, chest and shoulders. Move to the point where you feel a stretch, hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat up to three times.

3. Do two or three sets of 10 to15 repetitions of this exercises with a resistance band to reset the muscles around your shoulders. (Exercise is shown as two steps).

 

Try focusing on your alignment and use these exercise interventions to combat detrimental influences on posture. It’s worth the effort to improve and maintain the way you look and feel.

Mike Bento is an advanced trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in human movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist.