And we’d bet anything you’ve just
straightened up after reading that? It’s almost like we need continual
reminders throughout the day to remember our posture.
Generally speaking, our lives are
becoming more and more sedentary – we sit at work, we sit to get to work, we
sit to relax after work – which doesn’t help when it comes to keeping our backs
strong and healthy.
It might seem like just an aesthetic
issue, but poor posture can sometimes be associated with problems later in life
(although this isn’t the case for everyone and sometimes there are other
Physiotherapist Tim Allardyce (www.surreyphysio.co.uk) says if
problems aren’t corrected early, people can sometimes end up with ‘dowager’s
posture’ or a rounded, forward-flexed upper back.
“Eventually that causes all kind of
problems with mobility, loss of balance, problems walking, and mechanical
issues with the ribs,” says Allardyce.
He adds that there is some degree of
inevitability here (we often naturally become more rounded as we age), but “it
can be minimised” and tackling things early often helps.
Of course, any concerning, severe or
ongoing problems with posture and back/neck pain should always be assessed by a
qualified health professional, as you may need further assessments and advice.
But, generally speaking, there’s lots we can do to help improve our posture day-to-day.
Here are ways to help improve your posture now…
1. If you have a tendency to sick your
bottom out, curve your pelvis slightly inward
Many of us naturally stand with our lower
back curved outwards – it can be even more pronounced if you wear high heels.
Orthopaedic spine surgeon Dr Ken Hansraj
explains: “At the level of the spine, common sense dictates that the belly
becomes more belly-shaped, [this lower curve in the spine is known as
“With increased lordosis, the nerves have less space to exit and [are] more likely to be tweaked, causing pain, numbness and weakness. This curve in the spine also puts a strain on nerves in the lower back.”
2. Move your head slightly backwards
This will straighten your upper spine.
“When our posture is poor, we tend to sit or stand with a forward head posture,
and that places strain on our neck muscles as they try to support the weight of
the head,” says Allardyce.
“If the head is forwards, gravity is
exerting greater pressure on our neck muscles, in the same way that it’s harder
to lift a kettle with an outstretched arm than closer to your body. The more
forward head posture, the more tension is placed on the neck muscles.”
3. Roll your shoulders back and down
This is a classic, but slouching
shoulders are very common and not good for the shoulders, neck or upper back,
“The big problem with slouching is that
we may develop an excessive kyphosis – that’s the normal forward curvature in
our upper back. If we slouch a lot, this kyphosis can become exaggerated,” he
It means we can end up leaning forward
more, which places pressure on discs and muscles and can lead to back ache, he
4. Use your core more
It seems we really underestimate how
important core strength is when it comes to posture – and we’re not just
talking about a six-pack or abs here, rather all the internal core muscles and
“I believe the inner core muscle, called
the psoas muscle, is a great indicator of spinal health and has great
implications for ageing gracefully, “Hansraj says, adding that posture is an
“important mitigation tool” to balance spinal forces most efficiently. In other
words, helping balance the load on the spine.
Think of your core muscles as your body’s
anchor – they’re all helping support and take pressure off your spine.
Allardyce says: “Yoga is fantastic for
strengthening the core, pelvic floor, and encouraging correct breathing. It is
good for posture, and strengthening the scapula (shoulder blade) muscles.”
Pilates-based exercises can be very
5. Watch your ‘text neck’
Modern life has created a very modern
problem – text neck. It seems we’re looking down at our phones far too much and
it’s contributing to poor posture and neck pain.
“The more phone and laptop use we do, the
more we get into the habit of looking down,” says Allardyce. “To improve your
posture, lift your chin, look along the horizon line.”
Try holding your phone higher too (or
stop looking at it so much!), as our necks aren’t designed to support our heads
for long in a forward-tilt position.
Hansraj headed up a study looking at
this, which found that the weight through the spine “dramatically increases
when flexing the head forward at varying degrees”.
An adult head weighs approximately
4.5-5.4kg – but the research found that when the head is tilted forward by 30
degrees, the forces felt by the neck surge to the equivalent of 18kg, or 27kg
at 60 degrees. So this kind of posture equals a lot of extra strain on our
6. Sit less and sit better
Hansraj says sitting for prolonged
periods can strain your back – but it’s the positioning that can make it even
worse. So your posture in a chair is just as important as when standing.
Having both feet flat on the floor is
vital, and he advises making sure your back is aligned against the back of the
seat, keeping your shoulders straight and avoiding rounding forward. A lumber
support pillow or just a rolled-up jumper behind your lower back will encourage
you to stay in a good position too.
7. Try ‘the dart’
This is a Pilates exercise
known for helping to promote good posture. Allardyce says: “Lie on your front.
Squeeze your shoulder blades in a V-shape, down and in. Lift your arms behind
“You can make the exercise harder by
turning the hands outwards or upwards, so the palms face away from your thighs.
You can also lift your head slightly,” he adds.
Always seek advice from a doctor or
physiotherapist before beginning any new exercise regime, especially if you
have a history of pain or injuries.