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Even in today’s more health-conscious society, many people remain unaware of the difference good posture can make in your day-to-day life, and the pain you can save yourself by training your body to do what it’s naturally primed to do.
While it may feel like the correct way to stand and sit is impossible in today’s tech-heavy world, your body wants to hold itself in a correct position, and we’re the ones that get distracted. Holding yourself up or sitting the right way is actually important for a number of reasons, and despite how it may feel sometimes good posture should actually be effortless.
If you’ve been working at a computer for years, have a bad habit of slouching or struggle to keep your head in line with your hips and shoulders, this guide for how to improve your posture that should help. We dive deep into what posture is, what good and bad posture looks like and include some helpful products below to help you get started. First, let’s start with the basics.
What is Posture?
At its most basic level, posture is the position in which a person holds their body when standing or sitting. What makes it a little bit complicated is that there is good posture and there is bad posture. Things like standing tall or slouching over fall into these categories.
Dr. Rahul Shah, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon at Premier Orthopedics in Southern New Jersey sat down with SPY to break down posture and discuss how everyone can improve theirs.
On the positive side, correct postural alignment puts the least amount of strain on your body during rest and activity, according to Dr. Shah.
“The strongest mental model I think for posture is effort. So, posture equals effort. If you have to use effort to keep yourself upright or vertical, that’s bad posture. It should be effortless,” said Dr. Shah.
“So what does that mean? That means, think of a perfect scoop of ice cream sitting well on a cone. If it’s off, there’s a problem, right? It’s pretty clear, right? So, that’s posture.”
SPY editors found in their own research that having good posture can also result in a number of health benefits. These include:
- Decreased abnormal joint rubbing
- Decreased chance of arthritis
- Backache relief
- Muscular pain relief
- Prevention of unnecessary fatigue/increased energy
- Fewer headaches
- Improved circulation
And not only does good posture improve your health outlook, it is widely accepted that great posture also contributes to a more attractive physical appearance.
What Causes Bad Posture?
Dr. Shah noted that anyone regardless of height or other body proportions can experience bad posture. He also noted that as we get older, certain muscles in our back that aid in stability wear out, which can contribute to bad posture.
“Now, once we get older, what happens is, if you think about all the areas of the back that move, things will wear out. The areas in the back where things wear out are the joints, the parts of the back where the torso is, between the torso and the pelvis,” said Dr. Shah.
“When those areas wear out, we tend to pitch forward a little bit. That’s why we see, when people get older, people tend to pitch forward.”
He also described how because our bodies are set wide, with our hips being wider side to side than our bodies are front to back, this renders us more able to accomodate fatigue in our side body, as opposed to our backs. When they wear out, we lean forward to compensate, resulting in more muscle strain than if we were standing up straight.
How Can Bad Posture Affect Day-to-Day Health?
As previously mentioned, it’s usually only after someone starts to experience the negative impacts of poor posture that they figure out how to fix it. Common negative impacts of poor posture include:
- General or localized back pain
- Spine curvature
- Poor sleep
- Loss of motivation
- More frequent headaches
- An unattractive appearance
- Incontinence and constipation
Dr. Shah noted that the most common physical symptom he sees as a result of bad posture is “ache.”
“My back hurts, I’ve got a back ache, I’ve got a neck ache, I’ve got a shoulder ache. I have an ache on this side, this is acting up on me. That’s the first stuff that’s there,” said Dr. Shah.
Read More: The Best Back Support Pillows of 2022
He also said a common first symptom of bad posture, rather than pain, is a “lack of concentration” on where your body is in space when sitting in front of a computer.
“What will also happen, part and parcel of this, if you’re doing knowledge work, like let’s say you’re sitting in front of a computer, writing a piece, etc. You may first start to notice not the ache, but lack of concentration. Because you’re using your body’s precious ability to focus, it’s focusing on the wrong spot.”
How Can I Improve My Posture?
Improving your posture starts with the initial simple step of being aware that good posture exists and also knowing what it looks like. This means, even without adding any equipment or professional help into the equation, this first step lets you start working on correcting those bad habits (like right now!). According to Dr. Shah, this means stacking your head above your pelvis and keeping it centered in that space.
“Make sure you know what good posture is for you, it’s an effortless pose. So you’re able to hold your head stacked above your pelvis in an effortless manner. Now, how do I get there?”
After that, Dr. Shah recommends activities like running, bicycling and walking for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. “Because if you do aerobic activity, say 20 minutes a day, about 3-4 times a week, you’re going to prime your muscles, so they know how to hold your head in space perfectly. Because the blood is going to go to them and encourage them to walk harmoniously.”
“At the end of the day, if you dig to the core of it, you go from posture is effort, to a knowledge of where your body is in space,” said Dr. Shah. It’s about knowing which muscles are being used when, and for what purpose, which he says your body already knows “viscerally.” If you’re aware of that, according to him, you’re more aware of when you’re fatiguing certain muscles and causing ache.
Posture Tools and Correctors
Dr. Shah noted that he’s not a huge fan of tools and posture correctors, because they help your muscles relax when they should be priming you to sit upright.
“I’m not a big fan of those, because what happens if you don’t have them? You want to come up with a resilient system that’s self-learning. Self-learning is exercise. Self-learning is paying attention to where you are in space.”
However, if you are interested in a posture corrector or training device, in conjunction with strengthening exercises and discipline, we’ve gathered some of our favorite picks below.
Below you’ll find nine products that can help you on a course to improve your posture. We’ve included a range of options to ensure there’s one to fit in with your lifestyle, whether you’re sitting at a desk all day or having to move around. Read on to find some of the best answers to the question of how to improve your posture.
1. ComfyBrace Posture Corrector
With over 17,000 five-star ratings from Amazon customers and a price tag under $20, it’s easy to see why the ComfyBrace Posture Corrector takes the top spot. The brace was designed to help relieve chronic back pain as well as alleviate the discomfort of standing or sitting for long periods by taking unnecessary, poor-posture-induced pressure away. It’s made from neoprene which is soft to touch and breathable, maximizing comfort during periods of longer use. To begin with, wearers should aim for five to 10 minutes of use per day before building to longer one or two-hour-long sessions once it feels comfortable to do so. In addition, the corrector sports a unisex design that can fit chest sizes between 30 and 43 inches in size.
2. Truweo Posture Corrector
At under $12, the Truweo Posture Corrector is a budget-friendly and tried-and-tested answer to aiding posture improvement. While not ideal for every user, the majority find this upper back brace beneficial for providing support to the neck, back and shoulder area. You can use it when you’re standing, sitting or even lying down to train your brain and your muscles to always keep your back straight. The corrector is made from high-quality materials which are breathable and lightweight while still being strong enough to feel secure. Plus, the unisex design can accommodate any chest size between 30 to 43 inches.
3. SHAPERKY Adjustable Posture Corrector
This posture corrector from SHAPERKY recently went through a redesign and is built more effectively than before. It’s an upper back brace that can be adjusted for your unique body. The high-quality fabric is breathable and sturdy, and the shoulder strap design can be worn underneath clothing for subtle adjustments throughout the day. It’s touted as able to improve your posture after wearing it for as little as two hours a day.
4. Everlasting Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow
BEST FOR BACK PAIN
While sitting at a desk all day, a lumbar support pillow can be super helpful in giving your lower back the support it needs to keep your head and shoulders upright. This one is made of heat responsive memory foam and is designed to adjust to the contours of your back easily. It easily attaches to the back of a chair and has an ergonomic design that mimics the natural curve of your back for extra support. It has a breathable mesh cover for temperature control that can also be easily removed and machine washed.
5. Amazon Basics Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat
BEST FOR FLEXIBILITY
This Amazon Basics Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat isn’t going to fix anything by itself. But used in the right way, and by that we mean for practicing yoga on, you can improve your posture and overall health. The right yoga program is ideal for strengthening and improving flexibility in the important parts of your body which helps with maintaining correct posture. If you can find the time and the right workout, this could be one of the most effective ways to alleviate back pain or decrease your chances of ever experiencing any in the first place.
6. VEICK Resistance Bands Set
BEST FOR WORKING OUT
If you’re already experiencing significant back pain and want a way to get rid of it, this might not be the best route. However, if you’re looking for an easy way to build the right muscles in your body without the need of heavy weights, this VEICK Resistance Bands Set could be the answer. Resistance bands are a versatile way to work out which never gives back more energy than you can put in. In addition, they’re highly portable, budget-friendly and come with over 8,000 five-star ratings from Amazon users.
AS SEEN ON TV
If you’re a regular viewer of TV’s SharkTank, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the BetterBack. This portable posture correction tool can provide support for your back no matter what kind of chair or space you choose to sit in. When sat down, this tech-free brace sits around your upper shins and gives support to your lower back, correcting your sitting position in a matter of seconds. The brace is also made from breathable materials to provide greater comfort during use and features adjustable straps to ensure it’s secure when on.
8. Upright GO 2 Posture Trainer
BEST SMART TRAINER
Working in as little as two weeks, the Upright GO 2 Posture Trainer is an app-led posture correction tool. Rather than correcting your posture through physical pressure, the subscription-free app provides training, tracking and reminders through your smartphone which is connected to the multi-sensor in the center of your back. This is a great alternative for people who are concerned about physically correcting how you stand or sit as it works through self-awareness and creating better habits.
9. SIDIZ T50 Home Office Desk Chair
BEST OFFICE CHAIR
If you’re currently working through your 9-to-5 office days in the cheapest office chair you could find and starting to feel that decision in your back, it might be time for a change. In addition to being a comfortable place to sit, this SIDIZ T50 Home Office Desk Chair offers users all the support they need to maintain a natural and healthy posture throughout the day. The design includes an adjustable headrest, three-way armrests, forward tilt adjustment and two-way lumbar support. In addition, the chair features five multidirectional wheels, a ventilated mesh back and comes in three different color options.
10. Varier Variable Balans Original Kneeling Chair
BEST KNEELING CHAIR
If you’re looking to revolutionize the way you sit in an attempt to improve your posture, this Varier Variable Balans Original Kneeling Chair could be the answer. Following the original kneeling chair design from 1979, this unique way to sit helps your body to maintain its natural curvature to ease any lower back discomfort. The chair itself is made from high-quality wood to deliver a secure and reliable feel. Plus, it’s available in eight different colors, ensuring there’s one to match with your existing workspace decor.