How To Improve Your Posture

In this article, we’ll take a look at how improving your posture will help prevent pain and injuries, and how it is directly related to better overall health and wellness. We have consulted with a range of authoritative sources and Dr Steve Button, A Milton Keynes based Chiropractor with 17 years of experience treating back and spinal problems.

What is posture?

Improve posture

Posture is simply the way you hold your body when sitting, standing, lying down and moving as a result of habits formed over the course of your life. We can summarise posture into two main types:

Dynamic - this type of posture is how you hold your body when active such as running, walking, cycling or basically anytime you move throughout the day.

Static - this type of posture is how you hold your body when stationary such as sitting, standing or sleeping.

In order to have good overall posture, it’s important to focus on improving both types, dynamic and static, not just one over the other.

Defining good and bad posture

The position of your spine plays an important role when it comes to posture. The spine is our body’s central support structure helping us stay upright and connects the different parts of our skeleton to each other.

It has three natural curves at your neck, mid-back, and lower back. When focusing on improving posture you should aim to maintain these curves.

Running alongside your spine from top to bottom are muscles (often referred to as postural muscles) and vertebrae responsible for providing support and balance. Having good posture helps to avoid straining these muscle groups so you can carry out daily activities.

But when you increase spinal curvature and position your spine in unnatural positions, it opens the doorway for bad posture to seep in by placing stress and a build-up of pressure on these tissues.

For example, when standing upright your head should be directly above your shoulders, and the top of your shoulders should be directly above your hips.

The diagrams below show an ideal plumb line for good posture and how it should run throughout the body from a front and side-on view.

Plumb Line
Side On Plumb Line

10 common postural problems

To fully understand where the nature of your posture problems are originating from it’s important to identify what type of posture you have. Some of the most common forms of bad posture include:

  • 1. Lordotic posture - the medical name for an exaggerated inward curve of the spine, often in the neck or lower back.
  • 2. Kyphosis posture - the spinal curve that results in an abnormally rounded back.
  • 3. Swayback posture - a particular type of posture where people experience exaggerated curves in their spine often leading to lower back pain.
  • 4. Flatback posture - leads to the normal curve in your lumbar spine becoming reduced or eliminated.
  • 5. Forward head posture - results in your head being positioned with your ears in front of your body’s vertical line causing pain and stiffness in the neck.
  • 6. Rounded shoulders - when your shoulders resting position moves forward from the body’s ideal alignment.
  • 7. Scoliosis - the term given to sideways curvature of the spine often resulting in an S or C shaped curve.
  • 8. Winged scapula - occurs when one or both of your shoulder blades protrude from your back instead of lying flat.
  • 9. Flared ribs - when the bottom part of your ribcage moves forward resulting in an increased arch in the lower back.
  • 10. Genu Valgum - or ‘knock-knees’ as it’s commonly referred to is a misalignment that turns your knees inwards.

Common causes of bad posture

Developing bad posture is much like any other habit and usually goes unnoticed for long periods of time until suddenly something gives. Most common posture issues evolve from basic everyday actions which is where the trouble lays when it comes to correction. These include:

  • Slouching in a chair
  • Sticking your bottom out
  • Standing with a flat back
  • Leaning on one leg
  • Hunched back
  • Poking your chin
  • Bent over at a desk
  • Looking down at mobile devices for extended periods
  • Undesirable sleep positions

“Subtle misalignment in the back and neck brought on by factors such as sedentary lifestyles, heavy smartphone use, long days at desk jobs and even sleep habits are setting the stage for more serious problems,” says biomechanics expert Dr Mark Cucuzzella.

Importance of having good posture

When it comes to improving your health and wellbeing, good posture might not be the first thing that springs to mind.

But taking notice of how you hold your body can have a huge effect on whether or not you run into certain chronic problems like osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as how your body feels and functions on a daily basis.

Importance Of Good Posture

When bones and muscles are being held in an unnatural position for extended periods of time it amounts to increased pressure on your joints. Whatsmore, poor spinal posture can eventually lead to nerve damage due to compression.

However, when you set about taking appropriate action to correct your posture it will lead to many great benefits such as:

  • Better mood and increased energy
  • Greater bone, joint and muscle health
  • Improved breathing
  • Fewer headaches
  • Improved spine health
  • Reduced lower back pain
  • Less tension in your shoulders and neck
  • Better circulation and digestion
  • Greater core and scapular strength
  • More self-confidence

“Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way, but with a bit of practise, good posture will become second nature” Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield.

Consequences of poor posture

Failure to take notice of and correct postural problems can have many negative effects on your daily life such as:

  • Headaches
  • Back and neck pain
  • Knee, hip and foot pains
  • Shoulder pain and impingement
  • Jaw pain
  • Fatigue and breathing problems
  • Low circulation
  • Digestion problems

Exercise to fix bad posture

Exercise To Fix Bad Posture

Maintaining proper posture requires muscle strength, joint flexibility, and balance. Abnormal postural alignment can be detrimental to muscle function and could possibly contribute to joint pain.

With exercise, you can target specific muscle groups that play an important role in helping maintain good posture. A slumped posture from working long hours in a poor position, like on a laptop, can be improved with a focus on building core muscles and stretching tight muscles in the upper back and neck.

Strengthening core muscles around the abdomen plays a leading role in posture support as well as your back, shoulders and chest. Focusing on getting stronger while maintaining proper form and stretching when you exercise is a great way to correct muscular imbalance and stability.

There are many different types of exercise that can help with posture-related problems but here are six popular ones to try out.

Six exercise types to improve your posture

1. Pilates

Low impact exercise believed to improve flexibility, and balance, and even help with muscle strength. A recent study was carried out to investigate the impact of Pilates and postural alignment in healthy adults after the completion of a 16-session program. The research found that there was a positive improvement on postural alignment in healthy adults, besides being a safe exercise.

3. Swimming

This low impact total body movement through water helps increase core stability and builds up back and shoulder strength, all key factors in achieving better posture.

5. Powerlifting/Strength Training

Focuses on overloading your body in a progressive manner to gradually become stronger by targeting specific muscle groups directly related to better posture. Powerlifting involves workouts based around the three major compound lifts — squat, bench, and deadlift, and is used to target multiple muscle groups with each exercise.

But it’s important to note that before attempting this style of training it’s strongly advised to place particular emphasis on getting your technique perfected first. Remember, poor form may end up causing injury that leads to more damage and your posture could get worse.

However, with weight training, you can easily single out weak points in your body and actively set about to make them stronger with isolation exercises. Exercises such as farmer carries, lat pull-downs, seated cable rows, and reverse snow angels can all have huge carryover to improve posture when performed correctly.

2. Yoga

A practise that involves physical poses, concentration, and deep breathing. It is commonly used to treat stress and anxiety but is also a fantastic way to improve flexibility and strength by stretching your muscles. Studies show that yoga helps improve bad posture, in particular hyperkyphosis, and also leads to an overall increase in wellbeing.

4. Tai chi

An exercise based around slow and deliberate flowing movement helping to improve the body's alignment, posture, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and stamina. This exercise is particularly useful for those who want a more low impact style workout.

6. Cardio Exercise

The following types of cardio exercise can be great for improving your posture as long as the focus is on the correct technique and postural alignment rather than speed and power.

  • Rowing is a great way to build muscle strength in your - mid and upper back strength. Check out our beginner’s rowing technique video to ensure you are using the right position.
  • Walking/running is also great for lower back endurance, ensure you are using arms and you are not slouching when walking and running.
  • Cross trainers are a great low impact form of exercise but ensure you are upright with a focus on core muscles - no slumping over with your head down focusing on speed and power. Check out this helpful video on how to use a cross trainer.

Stretches To Improve Posture

Active Child’s Pose

  • What it is: Helps you lengthen and stretch the spine and activate the range of motion in your shoulders by stretching your arms above your head.
  • How to do it: Start on your hands and knees with knees shoulder width apart. Soles of feet facing the roof extend hands out forward and drop hips back on heels. Place forehead on the floor and hold for 30 seconds.


  • What it is: This stretch is great for engaging the back, chest, and abdominals.
  • How to do it: Start on all fours with wrists directly under elbows and elbows directly under shoulders. Keep knees firmly placed under hips and feet planted into the ground. Place your neck in a neutral position, exhale, tuck your tailbone under using your abdominal muscles to push your spine toward the ceiling, Bring your head down toward your chest. Exhale and let your belly drop down towards the ground while lifting your chin and chest up towards the ceiling. Do sets of 5 - 10 reps.

Shoulder Rolls

  • What it is: This exercise engages all 3 heads of the shoulder helping to loosen them up.
  • How to do it: Stand in a comfortable position and inhale whilst lifting your shoulder upward toward your ears. On exhaling, let your shoulders roll back while pulling your shoulder blades together. Repeat 5-10 times.

Spine Stretch

  • What it is: An easy to perform stretch to engage the hamstrings and lower back while opening up the shoulders.
  • How to do it: Sit down with your legs straight out in front of you keeping toes pointed towards the ceiling and your back straight. Take a deep breath in and reach out in front of you upon exhaling. Try not to reach for your toes, instead reach straight out in front of you.

Thoracic Spine Rotation

  • What it is: A stretch to engage your back, chest, and abdominal muscles to improve mobility in your torso and thoracic spine (middle and upper back).
  • How to do it: Start on all fours, with your fingers spread on the floor. Place your left hand behind your head, but keep your right hand outstretched on the ground in front of you. While exhaling rotate your left elbow to the sky and stretch the front of your torso holding for a deep breath, in and out. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths. Switch arms and repeat.

Chest Release

  • What it is: A nice simple little stretch that helps open up the chest and shoulders while also engaging upper back muscles.
  • How to do it: Lift both arms up to shoulder height with the palms of your hand facing forward. Inhale and on the exhale gently push both hands slightly behind you, while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Downward Facing Dog

  • What it is: This stretch is primarily leg based engaging hamstrings, hips, and calves.
  • How to do it: Start on all fours with your toes tucked and lift your hips high towards the sky. Reach your heels back toward the mat without allowing them to plank on the ground. Drop your head and lengthen your neck making sure your wrists stay parallel to the front edge of the mat. Take at least 3 deep breathes and repeat.

Chin Tucks

  • What it is: A great stretch to alleviate built-up tension in the neck and upper back.
  • How to do it: While standing or seated look forward and bring your head backwards making sure not to tilt your head down. Hold this for 5-10 seconds and repeat a few times for a set. Perform 3-4 sets.

Trapezius Stretch

  • What it is: Helps loosen tight muscles in the neck and upper back area, in particular your traps.
  • How to do it: Take up a sitting position and slowly bring your right ear down towards your right shoulder. To add slightly more pressure use your hand. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Perform 3-4x throughout the day.

How long does it take to improve posture?

There is no one size fits all answer for how long it will take each individual before their posture improves. But, as a general rule of thumb, 30 days of following a good posture routine through exercise and stretching should be enough for most people to start seeing improvements.


Walking around every day with bad posture is hard work and with time it definitely begins to take its toll on your wellbeing. Pain and discomfort can be frustrating to deal with. The good news is there’s an abundance of exercises and stretches out there that can really make a difference.

Why not pick some that jump out at you from this article and give them a try for at least 30 days. It might just be what you need. And remember, ‘The best posture is your next posture!’

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