Experts estimate that around 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. While there are many causes behind this, poor posture is one of them.

Most of us are used to sitting for at least some period of time during the day. Whether we’re in front of a computer, behind a desk, or working on a task, it’s important to think about how our spine is positioned.

Maintaining a healthy posture is a great way to support your long-term spine health. It also helps you feel better, delivering a host of health benefits that you simply can’t get by slouching.

Not sure how to get there? Today, we’re sharing a few of our favorite exercises to help you sit up straight and make the most of your sedentary time.

Why Is It Important to Sit Up Straight?

“Sit up straight” is a common refrain that we’ve all heard at some point in our lives. Yet, it’s easy to file it under the same category as drinking more water. We know we should do it, but habits and routines often get in the way.

Before you can commit to improving your posture, it helps to understand why it’s so important.

The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your back and neck are constantly strained. This is especially the case if you’re leaning forward or hunched over. These unnatural positions pull on your musculoskeletal system, shifting it out of its natural alignment. As a result, you might find that you’re sore after a long workday, even if you didn’t do much physical activity. When those muscles weaken and become compromised, you’re also more prone to injury.

This is a common problem, but there are steps you can take to mitigate it. When you sit and stand with proper alignment, you improve blood flow throughout your body. This supports your nerves and blood vessels, ensuring they receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy. At the same time, you’re also easing strain and pressure away from your hips, shoulders, neck, back, and torso, which can help reduce or even eliminate pain in those regions.

By sitting up straight, you can even improve your digestive and respiratory functions.

Poor posture compresses your abdominal organs, which can reduce the function of your gastrointestinal system. This can lead to bloating, gas, constipation, and even painful acid reflux. It also makes it more difficult to breathe fully and deeply, which can make you feel tired and unenergized. With a slight adjustment, you’ll find that it’s easier to inhale and utilize the oxygen around you.

Common Postural Issues

Sometimes, you can physically feel yourself sinking into poor posture. Other times, it sneaks up on you as you work. Before long, you’re feeling achy but you can’t figure out why.

There are two common positions that we tend to adapt as we sit for an extended period of time. These include forward head posture and forward rotated shoulders.

Forward Head Posture

3d rendered medically accurate illustration of a man with a forward head posture

With forward head posture, your head leans forward instead of aligning vertically with your spine. This puts excess stress on the muscles attached to your cervical spine, which is responsible for holding up your head.

As it works overtime, you’ll usually feel the strain in the back of your neck or your lower back, first. If you continue to adopt this position, it can even cause the muscles in your body to become imbalanced. Some muscles will become longer and weaker while others will become shorter and tighter.

This can lead to balance issues, as well as pain and stiffness. With the right exercises and stretches, you can reverse these symptoms and learn how to hold your head in a neutral position, aligned with your spine.

Forward Rotated Shoulders

Forward rotated, or rounded, shoulders occur when your shoulders are out of alignment with your spine. You might move into this position if you need to look down and forward for a long time. For instance, your shoulders may slump as you:

  • Use your smartphone
  • Drive a vehicle
  • Use a computer
  • Carry heavy objects
  • Sit for a long while

When your shoulders move out of natural alignment with your spine, it can change the way the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders normally function. It also puts undue stress on your shoulder joints, causing pain in your neck and upper back.

Thankfully, you can train your muscles and joints to find a correct, healthy resting position. Stretching and exercising intentionally can reverse unhealthy posture and its uncomfortable side effects.

Simple Exercises for Healthy Posture

To be effective, posture exercises must be quick and easy to perform. That way, you’ll remember to do them more frequently. Here are a few that you can try right at your desk or beside it.

Plank

Young woman doing high plank exercise at stadium.

Planks are great for strengthening and tightening multiple muscle groups at once. They help strengthen and stabilize your core and back, which in turn help with good posture. They also help to strengthen your shoulders, arms, glutes, and hamstrings.

To get into a plank, simply get down on all fours, and then straighten your legs out behind you. Push yourself up using your arms (if this is too difficult you can push yourself up using your elbows), lift your hips so that your back is straight, and use the front part of your feet to stabilize yourself from behind. Make sure to keep a straight spine so that you’re not hurting your back. Pushing your hips up too high or slouching them down will prevent the proper muscle groups from being engaged.

Try to hold a plank for at least 1 minute. As you get more advanced you can try holding a plank for 5 or even 10 minutes. Exercises don’t have to be super complicated to be effective, they just have to be done properly with the right form. Keep it simple.

Upper Spinal Floor Twist

The upper spinal floor twist is an exercise that helps promote upper torso rotation while stabilizing the pelvis.

Start by lying on one side with your knees at a 90 degree angle and stacked atop each other. Next, stretch out your arms to your full wingspan. Then, keep your knees to one side, lay on your back, and look in the direction opposite your knees.

Hold this position for 1-2 minutes.

This is a great exercise for a tight upper back and forward slouching shoulders. Remember to breathe during the exercise, and try to relax and much as possible.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Young woman on floor stretching out her leg and hamstrings.

If you’re feeling tension in your hamstrings or lower back, then seated hamstring stretch can offer much-needed relief.

Start by sitting down on the floor, with one leg straightened out and the other bent inward. With your straightened leg, point your toes up toward the ceiling. Sit up tall, and then slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch down the back of your thigh.

Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then alternate to the other side.

Standing Forward Fold

It’s a simple exercise, but standing forward fold packs a powerful punch. This one motion stretches your hips, hamstrings, and lower back while relieving tension in your neck and shoulders.

Start with your legs hip-distance apart, slightly bent at the knee. Exhale as you bend forward slowly at your hips and lengthen the front of your torso. Once you’ve folded over, hold each elbow with the opposite hand, allowing your head to hang softly down.
To deepen the stretch, pull your shoulders away from your ears and press your heels into the floor. Breathe in and out for a few repetitions, releasing deeper into the pose with each exhale.

Chair Arm Circles

Here’s another routine you can perform right at your desk, as soon as you feel yourself moving into an unhealthy posture.

Sit in a chair with your feet hip-width apart. They should be flat on the ground and pointed forward. Extend your arms directly out to the side, pointing your palms down and your thumbs forward. Pinch your shoulder blades back.

Move your arms up and forward in a circular motion. Repeat this movement 40 times, with your shoulder blades pinched the whole time. Then, point your palms up and move your arms up and backward for 40 more rotations.

Chest Openers

If you spend most of your day sitting down, then your chest can start to curve inward. To open it up and strengthen it, try chest openers.

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Then, bring your arms behind you and interlace your fingers, palms pressed together. If you can’t reach your hands together, you can hold a towel in the same position instead.

Gaze ahead and hold, keeping your head, neck, and spine aligned. As you inhale, move your hands toward the floor and point your chest upward. Hold this position for five breaths, then relax and release. Repeat up to five times.

Shoulder Rolls

Only have a few seconds to stretch? Try shoulder rolls. Sit up nice and tall on the edge of your chair, and let your arms extend to the floor from your shoulders.

Wiggle your fingers, hands, and wrists to make sure they’re loose. Then, rotate your shoulders forward in a circular motion while keeping your back straight. After a few repetitions, switch and roll them backward, moving toward your ears and down your back.

Ergonomic Work Products for Healthy Posture

As you do your part to improve your posture and sit up straight, Goldtouch is here to help. We’re the leading provider of custom-comfort technology products, designed to help you feel your best at work.

The right tools can greatly enhance your posture, allowing you to sit, stand, type, and read with ease. From lightweight laptop stands to ergonomic keyboards, we have the equipment you need to enhance your workspace for maximum comfort. When you don’t have to strain to see the screen, type a report, or stand at your desk, your body will thank you.

Check out our full collection of products online, and our blog page to learn more!