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Healthy Body Basics: Improving Your Standing Posture

Lucien Jung
Poor standing posture can include locked knees, rounded shoulders, or a misaligned head or neck.

Have you thought about your posture lately? Probably not. We tend to live our lives without giving much thought to how we stand, sit, or sleep until we experience an ache, pain, or injury.

Poor standing posture can include locked knees, rounded shoulders, or a misaligned head or neck. Slouching or slumping may hurt your spine, affect your balance, and decrease your flexibility.

With poor standing posture, you may feel:

  • tiredness in your feet
  • tightness in your low back
  • soreness or fatigue in your shoulders
  • tension or pain in your neck
  • difficulty breathing

Maintaining good posture takes awareness, training, and practice. Keep in mind you should always check in with your doctor before beginning any kind of fitness regime.
With some awareness and effort, you will be able to improve your posture and feel better in your body.

Tips and exercises to improve your standing posture:

Distribute your body weight and activate arches
Your feet are the forgotten foundation. Flat feet, fallen arches, poor mobility, and poor balance all impact your feet and posture. You want to build a solid foundation with active arches.

  • Stand with feet hip-distance apart and parallel. Your bodyweight should be evenly distributed (foot-to-foot and toe-to-heel).
  • Lift your toes to engage the medial arch of your foot. Once that arch is active find an amount of arch lift that can be maintained and slowly lower your toes.

Activate your thighs and maintain a soft bend in your knees
As your base of support while standing, a bit of engagement or muscle activation in your thighs may help you feel lighter in your ankle and knee joints.

  • Engage thighs (your kneecaps should lift upwards toward your hips). This lift should be just enough that the knees are NOT locked or pushed into hyperextension (past normal range).
  • Keeping a soft bend in the knees encourages the leg muscles to do more of the work.

Find your neutral pelvic tilt
Each person has a natural and a neutral tilt of the pelvis. But what may be natural for your body may not be neutral and the optimal position for the health of your low back. Misalignment of the pelvis may lead to tightness or muscle strain.

  • Place hands on hips and move the pelvis by arching the low back. This is an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Now tuck and round your tailbone under. This is the posterior tilt of the pelvis.
  • Find a place that is between these two extremes. Note: Maintaining this neutral pelvis may require some abdominal engagement and control.

Engage your shoulder blades
Our shoulders are one of our most mobile and fragile joints. By nature, the shoulder is meant to move which means it can also lack stability.

The shoulders tend to round forward without some shoulder blade engagement, which may create excessive roundness in the upper back. This rounded position makes chest muscles shorten and back muscles lengthen, resulting in a weak back.

  • Draw shoulder blades together and depress them downwards slightly toward your hips. This will broaden the collarbones and improve your capacity to take deeper breaths.

Engage your abs
A weak core doesn’t help your posture. The transverse abdominis muscle is a deep abdominal muscle that encircles your torso and acts like a corset to support your organs and your low back.

  • Place one hand on your belly and laugh. You’ve found your transverse abdominis.
  • The amount of engagement is adjustable, just like a dimmer switch. Find the amount you need to provide support while being able to breathe naturally and comfortably. It shouldn’t feel like you are sucking in your navel.

Adjust your neck alignment
Your head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. If your head is projecting forward into a “turtle neck” or “text neck” position, the pressure on your cervical spine increases dramatically. This wear and tear on your neck puts more strain on the muscles of your neck and upper back.

  • Tuck your neck and chin back so that your ear aligns over your shoulder.

Elongate your spine
Energetic intention is the easeful effort needed to activate your muscles in a specific direction. Tap into your internal spark and move purposefully.

  • Grow and lengthen your spine in an upward motion. You may feel yourself getting taller. Connect to your inner sense of pride and confidence.

Where and when should you practice proper posture?

Everywhere and anytime you start to feel fatigued or strain in any of these body areas — your neck, shoulders, low back, hips, and feet — you should practice the seven steps of good standing posture.

Start by making small changes when standing in line at the grocery store or in your own kitchen. Many of these techniques are also good for your sitting posture. Try them at work, at home, and even in your car while driving.

Our bodies are meant to move. Practicing good posture while walking, doing yard work, carrying groceries or participating in sporting activities will train your body to be strong to support your everyday movements.

Practicing good posture techniques regularly will help you build body awareness, strength and confidence. Remember practice makes progress! In time, the steps will become second nature.

Cynthia Akey is a health, fitness and wellness professional. She has over 15 years of experience teaching and coaching stiff and aching individuals who want to live healthier lives.
Lucien Jung is a Milwaukee-based video and radio producer. His research in the IP-based distribution of multimedia has been presented at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual conference as well as the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. Lucien is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications master’s program in Television-Radio-Film.