When was the last time you thought about your posture? Maybe you straighten up a little every morning when you look in the mirror or throw your shoulders back when getting your photo taken, but for most people, posture is just not something that gets much attention. It really should be, though. That’s because not only does standing tall help you look better, it also has some pretty big health benefits.
“Your posture affects so many functions in your body—if you have poor posture, things just don’t work as well,” says Liza Egbogah, chiropractor and posture expert. The big issue that can pop up is muscle pain. When your posture is out of whack, certain muscles have to work harder to keep your body aligned. “This can cause strain, inflammation, and pain,” says Egbogah.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Your torso is where all of your vital organs are, so when you compress and collapse that area, it affects the way they function,” says Steven Weiniger, a posture expert and author of Stand Taller, Live Longer. “You can’t breathe as deeply or digest food as well.”
It makes sense: When you’re slouched over, there’s less room for your food to move through your intestines, leading to gas or constipation. And just try to take a deep breath when you’re slumped down looking at your phone. That matters more than you think it would. “When your lungs don’t fully expand with each breath, you aren’t getting as much oxygen as you should,” says Egbogah. “This can have a physical impact but also a mental one, like leading to anxiety and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
The tricky thing about improving your posture is that it needs to be mindless. “You can’t be thinking about your posture all day long, so you need to retrain unconscious habits,” says Weiniger. Ready to make proper posture automatic? Try these four moves:
Single leg balance. Good posture is all about your body feeling balanced when you’re standing tall with shoulders back and down, chest broad, and head leveled. That’s why it helps to practice balancing in that position. “Stand with the best posture you can have and lift one leg up so you’re standing on the other,” says Weiniger. “Take five slow breaths while standing tall the entire time, then do on the other side.”
Shoulder squeeze. “If you strengthen and stretch the right muscles, good posture is something you don’t need to think about,” says Egbogah. She recommends imagining you have a pen in between your shoulder blades and squeezing them together hard enough to hold the pen in place. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10 times throughout the day. “This strengthens your back’s stabilizer muscles, which will hold you in good posture all day long,” says Egbogah.
Chest expansion. This move is one Egbogah recommends you do once every time you get up from sitting. When you stand up, take your hands behind your back, interlock your fingers, and squeeze your shoulder blades for five seconds while reaching your hands toward the floor.
Backbend. “When you spend too much time sitting, your hip flexor muscles can shorten and cause your spine to curve forward,” says Egbogah. While standing, take your hands and rest them on the back of your hips, then arch backward over them as far as you can go. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, try to go a little further, then slowly come back up.
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.