Maybe you slouch over your computer keyboard, or lug your toddler around on your hip, yet maintaining healthy posture probably doesn’t rank as a top priority. But it should! “Good posture creates optimal alignment in your body, helping it function as efficiently and effectively as possible,” says Erika Bloom, founder and owner of Erika Bloom Pilates. “When you sit, stand, walk, and move with ideal alignment, you help keep your muscles, discs, and nerves healthy, which is necessary for preventing injuries as well as healing existing ones.”
That means, when you’re racking up your daily steps, you’ll be able to move better when you do them, allowing your whole body to function better. “When you walk with proper posture, your gait will be ideal, which helps balance your muscles as you work them,” Bloom says.
So how do you un-hunch yourself? “Pilates is excellent for honing posture, because it works the exact muscles needed to support optimal alignment—including your core, pelvic floor, and spine, as well as your arms and legs,” Bloom says.
Try these five mat-based moves from Bloom—which strengthen the muscles that support healthier posture—as often as you can, or two to three times each week.
Targets the core—the key group of muscles responsible for maintaining posture.
Lay on your back, with your arms reaching up toward the ceiling. Your back should be in a neutral position, which is when you can still maintain a natural curve in your spine, with a small space between your low back and the mat. Exhale to engage your transversus abdominis, the large muscles of your abs, feeling your deep core muscles pull in and wrap around your waist like a corset. At the same time, lift each leg to a tabletop position while maintaining a neutral spine. Exhale and lower your arms slightly as you curl your upper back up, and extend your legs out to 45 degrees. Keep your abs pulled in, your low back neutral, and your neck long. Inhale, returning your legs to tabletop position, and lower your head back to start, reaching your arms back up to the ceiling. Repeat for 6 to 10 reps.
Opens the chest and arm muscles while strengthening the muscles along the back of the body, including those in the legs, hips, and shoulders that assist in proper posture.
Sit with your legs straight and together, and your hands placed on the mat behind your body, fingers turned towards you. Press your hands into the mat, to widen your collar bones and lift out of your shoulders. Press your heels into the mat and engage your core to lift your hips off the floor into a reverse plank. Hold this position as you inhale and lift your right leg up, keeping your hips still. Exhale and lower your leg. Switch to your left leg and repeat, alternating legs three times. Lower your hips back down to your seated position, to finish. Perform three to four total sets. (Note: Beginners can start by simply performing the Reverse Plank, and ease into one leg lift per side, building from there.)
Strengthens the muscles along the spine, along with the backs of the arms and legs while elongating the front of the torso.
Lie on your stomach with your arms back by your hips. Inhale and reach your arms back as you lift up into a small, upper back arch. Think about using your muscles to keep your low back still and toes reaching away from your body, and press your sternum forward as you lift your shoulders. Exhale and lower down to start. Perform eight reps.
Targets the deep muscles of the back that create proper alignment during sitting, standing, and walking.
Begin on your hands and knees in an all-fours position, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Extend your right arm forward and your left leg back, focusing on keeping your pelvis and torso even and still. Inhale and reach your fingertips away from your toes until your spine lengthens. Exhale and engage your deep abdominals as you return your arm and leg to the start position. Repeat with your left arm and leg, and continue alternating sides for 10 reps on each side.
SINGLE LEG BRIDGE
Strengthens the glutes, inner thighs, and hamstrings as well as the back and core.
Begin lying on your back with a neutral spine, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Exhale and press your feet into the mat, lifting your hips up to a bridge position. Lift your left foot off the mat and straighten it, keeping your knees touching, hips level, and core engaged. Hold for eight seconds, and then return your left foot back to the mat. Lower your hips back to the mat and begin on the opposite side. Alternate for three reps with each leg. *Note: Beginners: Start by performing a bridge, holding it for eight seconds. When you can keep your hips still and level, practice extending one leg, building up to three reps per side.
Photos courtesy of Erika Bloom.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.