Was your grandma always telling you to stand up straight? Is that just a universal Grandma thing? Maybe their generation had better posture and they can’t understand why we Gen X’ers and Millennials have to slouch so much.
It’s because of the computers. And the phones. And the disappearance of recess, and the fact that you just can’t watch ONE episode of Orange is the New Black.
The truth is, we’ve got a posture problem.
Bad posture — you know what I’m talking about; old lady humps, slouchy shoulders, gorilla arms — looks, well, bad.
It’s unprofessional, and unattractive. It shortens all your proportions and makes you look like you have a turtle neck (the animal not the shirt), and it adds a good 10 pounds to your physical appearance.
At best it reads as a lack of confidence, a sort of… shrinking. At worst it appears disrespectful to those around you (your boss, your customers, your peers).
And Grandma’s constant chiding doesn’t really help. Everyone knows to stand up straight.
But bad posture is more than just laziness. It’s part of a vicious cycle, a causal loop.
The postural contortions created when we, say, hunch over a laptop for days on end, or slouch on the subway during our commute home, create patterns that self-perpetuate.
In other words, if you keep standing that way, you’re gonna freeze like that. (Your grandmother was right about that one, too. Sorta.)
Slouching shortens your pectoral muscles and pull on your trapezius muscles. (Trapeziuses? No.)
Over time, those shortened / lengthened muscles start acting on their own, pulling your shoulders forward, bringing stiffness to the upper back, eventually resulting in chronic pain in the neck or lower back.
Basically, slouching creates issues that MAKE you slouch. And then you’re really screwed.
Did you know there are fitness professionals out there who specialize entirely in postural distortion? (Full disclosure: I used to be one of them.)
To fix bad posture, you have to address the muscle imbalances that contribute to it.
Here are three quick exercises you can do to start standing a little bit taller.
1. Use the wall.
Stand with your back against a wall. Your feet can be touching, or hip width apart. Get your heels as close to touching the wall as you can without straining your lower back. Engage your core — that part is crucial.
Without letting your rib cage pop forward, lift your upper back so your shoulder blades make contact with the wall.
Take your first two fingers to your chin and gently push it back toward the wall. You should feel the back of your neck lengthen. Then extend arms down at your sides with the backs of your hands grazing the wall.
Let your chest open up — if you have really squinchy shoulders, this might become a pretty intense stretch in that area. Try some slow movements, like dropping the shoulders down away from the ears, moving the arms like a snow angel, or tightening and releasing your core muscles.
This can be kind of uncomfortable; all my clients all used to hate it. BUT if you can commit to doing this for 3-5 minutes a day, you’ll see noticeable improvement in your posture. Promise.
2. Do these chest & thoracic spine openers.
Lie on a foam roller (or just make a long, narrow rollup of beach towels), with the roller running the length of your spine. Your head should be resting at one end, and your hips at the other. Bend the knees, feet flat on the floor. (Do that chin-tuck again, too.) Extend your arms out to either side, palms facing up.
Now. Here you can just breathe for a while. You’re reeducating your spine, opening the chest, and giving your skeleton a much-needed break from working against gravity.
If you want, you can add some snow-angel movements with the arms, or try extending one leg out in front of you for a stretch in the front of your hip. Just be mindful not to scrunch your shoulders up.
Alternatively (or also, because you’ll probably like both), set up your foam roller horizontally along the bottom of your rib cage. Your butt should be on the ground, knees bent, feet on floor. Put your hands behind your head to support your neck.
Now slowly lie back, allowing the curve of the foam roller to create a curve in your upper back. (Keep your core engaged and your bum on the ground— you want the movement to occur in your upper back, NOT your lower back.)
Sit back up, inch the roller further up toward your shoulders, and repeat. Continue until you get all the way up to the tops of the shoulders. Spend extra time in the positions that feel the best. And keep your neck relaxed!
3. Set up an ergonomic desk station.
Soooo many different ways to do this, guys. I have a MacGuyvered version of a standing / sitting desk, which I made with a $19 shoe rack from Target and a cleverly placed shelf on the wall.
The more ergonomic you can make your workstation, the less slouching and hunching you’ll experience at work. The big idea here is to allow your spine to rock its natural happy curvature, regardless of what you’re doing. (No lap desks; sorry.)
And here are six DIY ideas that you can build with stuff you already own.
It isn’t so hard to sit or stand a little straighter. You should be taking stretch breaks during your workday anyway — right?
I bet you just sat up about two inches straighter, didn’t you?
Let’s make Grandma proud.