By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

If you’d like to look and feel 10 years younger, try improving your posture. It is said that good posture can make us look “10 pounds lighter” and “10 years younger.” Good posture means that the normal curves of the spine are present in all positions (lying, sitting, standing, walking). Viewed from the side, the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and tip of the ear should line up vertically. There is a normal inward curve of the lower back, an outward curve of the upper back, and an inward curve of the neck. Almost everyone can improve their posture to some degree.

Following are some exercises to help improve posture. They may be done while standing or seated. Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Posture Exercise #1 – NECK RETRACTION (Stretches and strengthens muscles of the neck to promote good postural alignment. Can also help with neck pain relief.)
• Sit tall with good postural alignment, and maintain good posture throughout the exercise.
• Touch your chin with the tips of your fingers.
• Pull your chin straight back away from your hand, as though it were on railroad tracks. The chin should not tilt back, but stay level.
• You should feel a stretch in the back of the neck. When done correctly, it may appear that you have a “double-chin”.
• Pause and release. Repeat several times.

Posture Exercise #2 – SHOULDER GIRDLE CIRCLES (Mobilizes and warms up the shoulder girdle.)
• Circle shoulders up, back, down and forward. Repeat several times.

Posture Exercise #3 – SHOULDER GIRDLE RETRACTION (Improves range of motion of shoulders, strengthens postural muscles of upper back.)
• Move bent elbows out to sides to shoulder height.
• Rotate the shoulders so forearms are vertical.
• Squeeze shoulder blades toward each other, bringing elbows back.
• Pause, relax, and repeat several times.
• Put arms down at sides. Press hands back toward the wall behind you.
• Squeeze the shoulder blades together in this position. Pause, relax, and repeat.

Posture Exercise #4 – RIB LIFT (Improves shoulder range of motion, strengthens postural muscles, expands chest, promotes deep breathing.)
• Place hands behind head. (Avoid bringing head forward to get the hands behind the head. If you cannot get hands behind the head and maintain good posture, you may place the hands in front of the face, palms facing away from the face.)
• Take a breath in and squeeze the elbows back while simultaneously lifting the ribs.
• Breathe out, and relax, slightly bringing the elbows toward the front. Repeat 2 times.
• The final time, as you breathe out, reach up with the right arm, then the left, as though pushing the ceiling away.
• Circle the arms out to the sides in a wide arc, bringing hands down to the sides.

Posture Exercise #5 – PELVIC ROCKING (Promotes flexibility and postural awareness of the lower back.)
• Gently arch the lower back, then tighten the abdominal muscles to flatten the lower back.
• Repeat several times, gradually increasing the size of the movement.
(Shoulders and upper back should remain relatively stationary as the pelvis rocks back and forth.)

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