Exercises to Improve Posture and Reduce Pain

Joanna Lowry-Corry

We all slouch; I bet you are doing it right now, aren't you? Improving posture will benefit your whole health.

But how? I hear you ask. Some things are obvious: poor posture results in sore shoulders, necks, backs and headaches. An inflexible spine and poor muscle imbalances lead to higher frequencies of injury and pain. However studies have also shown that poor posture when sitting or standing can increase feelings of depression, zap your energy and concentration and reduce your circulation. Couple this with sitting all day and you've got a health time bomb on your hands.

Sadly most of us have office based jobs and our social lives are geared towards sitting activities such as theatre, dinner, drinks making it difficult to avoid the pitfalls of sitting and slouching.

The good news is there are plenty of daily tricks you can use to gradually improve both your posture and your health.

The Wall (Street) Sit with the Wall Angel

Wall sits are great for building strength and endurance, and the Wall Angel opens up the chest and thoracic spine. Standing with your back against the wall, bend the knees and slide your back down the wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Sit and hold for 30-60 seconds (or up to 12 hours, the world record!), you could even read your newspaper now. At the same time hold both your arms up at a 90 degree angle flat against the wall and slowly move them up and down. 

Modified Wall Angel 

Stand with your back against the wall, with your heels about 6 inches away. Let your head, shoulder blades, and behind touch the wall. Slide your hands behind your lower back flat against the wall. If there's more than a hand's thickness, tighten your stomach to flatten the curve in your back. If there's too little space, arch your back so that your hands fit. Now hold, to work the appropriate muscles. This is your ideal posture so the more you do it the better you will be. 

The Pencil Pinch

Rather than tucking that pencil behind the ear. Try holding it in between your shoulder blades! Show off your traps by rolling back the shoulders until the shoulder blades are pinched together. Pretend you’re holding a pencil between the scapulae (or try it for real!). Hold for 5-10 seconds, release, and repeat for 12-15 reps.

The Pinstripe Push-Up

This push-up is more easily done at work compared to floor push-ups. Standing one to two feet from a sturdy wall (not a cubicle divider!), lean forward until palms are flush against the wall, with arms straight and parallel to the ground. Next, bend the elbows to bring the body towards the wall, hold for two seconds, then push back to the starting position. Complete 12-15 reps.

Golfers Lift

Not just for golfers! It's also a great way to work the glutes. Start in a standing position with the feet together. Lift the right leg slightly, and lower the arms and torso while raising the right leg behind the body. Keep the left knee slightly bent, make sure your hips don't rotate and reach the arms as close to the floor as possible (As if picking up a golf ball!). Raise the torso while lowering the right leg. Switch legs. Complete 5-10 reps.

Sitting on an Exercise Ball

Times change. I think the exercise-ball-as-chair has finally gained enough acceptance that you can bring one into your office and not worry about it being strange. Sitting on an exercise ball helps strengthen your core and keep your posture straight. It's also fun. In fact, I am writing this while sitting on an exercise ball.

Sadly keeping perfect posture all day long can be hard work in its self, plus it doesn't prevent you hurting. Using the above combined with daily exercise and regular Chiropractic check-ups are very helpful for maintaining a healthy "well oiled" spine.


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