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Don’t Break Your Back! Tips to Healthy Posture

When you were a child, you may have been told to “Stand up straight!” or “Don’t slouch!” from your parents and teachers. I remember when I was younger, my mother would poke my back out of nowhere to remind me to stand up straight. I hated this as a teen and was determined to rebel for no reason other than to be stubborn and go against what I was told. My purposeful slouching eventually turned into a habit and carried with me into adulthood.

Now that I’m older, I understand why my mother was so insistent. My poor posture now makes me feel:

  • Pain in my back and shoulders.
  • I am breathing shallowly.
  • I appeared to lack self confidence.
  • Energy was not flowing efficiently throughout my body. I was often tired.
  • It made me look and feel weak.

I have spent much time correcting the damage, and undeveloped muscles, from my rebellious teen years. Like any habit, breaking bad posture can be a challenge, but definitely doable with some attention and practice.

Many of us may like to improve our posture, but we often don’t know how, or where to start.

Posture 101

Posture is defined as the carriage of the body. Good posture means carrying your body in a way that puts the least strain on muscles and ligaments. Poor posture can cause pain in the back and neck, and eventually causes injury. Improving your posture is a great way to improve your image while at the same time improving your health.

First, let’s go over some of the things that contribute to poor posture. Most of them are fixable, and others (like pregnancy) eventually go away on their own.

  • Poor habits – sitting and standing incorrectly (this is me)
  • Weakened muscles
  • Obesity – The extra weight strains the muscles
  • Pregnancy
  • Improper shoes – high heeled shoes are the worst
  • Reduced muscle and joint flexibility

Benefits of Good Posture

Good posture is beneficial to your health in several ways. Standing and sitting correctly prevents strain and overuse, and helps prevent back, neck, and muscle pain. Good posture also helps the muscles work more efficiently, which helps prevent fatigue. Most importantly, I have found that I can breathe deeply from my belly (my core). The energy I get from a deep breath is what keeps me going during the day.

The physical benefits are many, but there are other side benefits to good posture. When you stand properly, the body looks aligned, looks slimmer, and generally looks better. Good posture can also help you feel more confident – because you look and feel better, your confidence increases.


Most of us work at a desk or on a computer, and it’s very easy to slip into poor sitting habits. If your body posture is not aligned, eventually you will experience pain. Make sure you follow proper techniques for sitting, standing, and lifting. These seem obvious, but let’s list them to reflect.

  • Sitting – Sit with your shoulders back and back straight. Your legs should be at a 90 degree angle to your body. Keep your neck, back, and heels in alignment. Avoid the urge to slouch at your desk!
  • Standing – When standing, hold your head up straight and chin slightly tucked in. Keep your shoulder blades back, chest forward, and stomach tucked in. Keep most of your weight on the balls of the feet and not the heels or toes. Your arms should hang down naturally.
  • Lifting – Lifting something off the ground by bending over forces your back to do most of the lifting and puts a strain on the lower back. The proper way to lift is to bend at the knees and not the waist. This forces your leg muscles to do most of the work.
  • Keep Your Spine Straight: In general, try to keep your spine as straight as possible at all times. No matter what you’re doing, if you’re conscious of the alignment of your back and neck, you will notice that your posture will improve.

Simple Stretches to Loosen Your Back Muscles


  • Lower back cat stretch: This stretch is done on all fours, fingers facing forward. Start by dropping your head and raising your back as you push the shoulder blades upward. Repeat in the opposite direction by pushing your chest downward, arching your lower back.
  • Knees to chest: While lying on your back, pull both knees to the chest with your hands behind your knees. Keep your tailbone on the floor and hold this stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze: Have arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Now swing both arms horizontally towards your back, like you are trying to reconnect your fingers behind your back. Swing your arms back to the front. Do this motion slowly several times.
  • Shoulder blade lift: Have arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Now swing both arms vertically in opposite directions. Keep arms straight. Do this motion slowly several times.
  • The Core Twist: Hold arms out, bent at shoulder height. Feet planted on the ground, toes facing forward. Keeping your hips facing forward, twist your upper body towards the back (try to look behind you). Twist from side to side. Twist baby! Twist!

Exercises to Strengthen Your Back Muscles

Any type of exercise will benefit you by improving muscle endurance and increasing strength. Exercises that strengthen your core are the most helpful for improving and building the muscles that lead to good posture. Your core is your torso – shoulders to hips – the source of all your strength to your limbs. Here are three exercises that help improve posture:

  • Back extensions: Lying face down on the floor with hands behind head. Slowly lift your upper body a few inches off the ground and hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower to the ground. Repeat 10 – 12 times.
  • Superman: Lying face down on the floor, lift your right arm and left leg off the floor several inches. Hold for two seconds and then lower. Repeat with left arm and right leg. Do 10-12 repetitions.
  • Shoulder Squeeze: Lift shoulders toward ears and squeeze together, holding the position for five seconds. Relax and repeat 3-5 times.

Tips for Good Posture


  • Pad Your Chair – Consider adding lumbar support pad to your office chair. I have a pretty economical cotton pad for my office chair. In fact, I use two of these. This drives other people crazy, since there isn’t much room on the chair, but it’s great for my posture.
  • Push Butt Towards Back of Chair – When sitting, I find it helpful to remind myself to shift my butt towards the back of the chair. This helps to prevent me from slouching, as long as I continue to lean forward.
  • Sit on Tip of Chair – When you are sitting on the tip of your chair, you are further from the back of the chair so you are less likely to lean against the back support and slouch.
  • Breaks & Use of Timer – if you are sitting down most of the day, make a point to get up for breaks often. I set a timer for 40 minutes, when it goes off, I stop working, get up and stretch. Alternatively, go for a walk.
  • Exercise Ball – Try replacing your chair with an exercise ball. Lean, mean and cost-effective. The exercise ball makes a nice tool for stretching out your back as well. Two birds with one stone, that’s how I roll! (haha, get it? Roll with a ball?) :)

Do you have any posture advice for us? Tips that’s worked in your life? Share with us in the comments. See you there.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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69 thoughts on Don’t Break Your Back! Tips to Healthy Posture

  1. Another great stretch for the back is to find a pole, doorway, or other similar structure, grab onto it with both hands, and then just let your weight fall backwards while holding on. Depending on where you situate your hands, you’ll get a great stretch in various sections of your back. (NOTE: it’s like the cat stretch, only standing up.)

    Megan | It’s All About Joy!

  2. Thanks for this post. Great tips. Especially the back stretches. You are right. It seems as we get older, we start creaking a bit more. Thanks for your blog!!

  3. ryan

    The Alexander Technique.

    Google it, find someone who can teach it to you. This is god´s gift to those who want good posture.

  4. Tina-

    I came to your site looking for good material in the office, and I actually found something I could contribute greatly to!

    Great article on posture! Every technological convenience seems to just compound our posture problems in society…….

    There is one other cause of a posture misalignment that I’d like to mention here. STRUCTURE. In some individuals, their spine is actually misaligned in an abnormal posture. For example, from the front, the entire spine may be shifted to the left or right. From the side, a person’s middle back may be too far forward, or more commonly, too far backward, causing that commonly seen and called ‘humpback.’ The other common posture abnormality in our society is the forward head posture. This can actually be measured and compared to ‘normal’ limits.

    I’ve had the priviledge of working with/for this clinic that specializes in postural abnormalities for over a year now. I have seen pre and post xrays showing actual improvement with patient’s posture and effectively easing a lot of people’s pain. The technique is called Clinical Biomechanics of Posture (CBP), if you want to do some more research. In addition to being the Rehabilitation Assistant, I have also been a patient and where I once had frequent migraines and absolutely 0 degrees of curve in my neck, I now have an (almost) healthy 24 degrees of curve and no migraine since April ’07.

    Be informed.

    Happy and healthy spines mean happy and healthy nervous systems!

    See: or for more information on the technique.

  5. Phew, this is a great post. I’ve struggled with posture for a very long time. Part of it is just muscles, but part of it was really self esteem. I think it’s important to work on both at the same time.

  6. I believe that if we pay the proper attention to lifting the top of our head (not our chin), that many of our postural problems will automatically be resolved.

    At times, I have literally spent hours practicing this one point and nothing else. It is a “secret” of internal martial arts training.

  7. I have horrible posture and it is already showing in my mid-twenties–I’m sure the rough nature I have had hasn’t helped either.

  8. My clients often tell me that the first thing they notice when they begin weight training with me is that their posture improves.

    Thanks for helping others with your post.


  9. I’ll heartily recond Ryan’s suggestion re: The Alexander Technique. Tips and tricks are great, but addressing the underlying habitual usage issues is a) the only way to lasting results (IMHO), and b) a hell of a lot harder. I’ll just say that my results with a lower back problem resisted: yoga, meditation, chiropractors, and stretching. AT is nailing it, though.

  10. Thanks for the article. My back went out a month ago or so and the more I stretch it and workout, the better it feels. I had forgotten about the superman, I’ll add that to my routine!

  11. jd

    Tina – One way to set yourself up for success, at least while driving, is to arrange your mirrors and seat in a way that you need to use good posture. It’s a simple tip, but my cousin the chiropractor says its one of those simple things that actually works, particularly if you spend a lot of time in the car. It’s a constant reminder.

    If you sit behind a computer all day, it’s important to have the monitor higher than you would expect. You should literally be looking up enough that your head is slightly back — enough to bend you neck backward vs. forward. The curve in your neck is key. If you’re losing your curve, one thing you can do is find a chiropractor or other source for an exercise pump for your neck that helps you improve your curve.

  12. Thanks for the info and thanks for helping others

  13. Hi,

    I just read this book and it has helped a lot. I had lower back pain and my shoulders were rounded but this book has helped me understand how my posture is linked to back pain. The book also has great lower back exercises and stretches, its definately the best resource iv’e found among back pain cures.

    Hope you find it helpful as well!

  14. sorry forgot to give the book name – Healing chronic back pain the 7 steps to perfect posture.

  15. Posture Problems This is a take from a personal trainer’s prospective.

  16. luke

    wow his i so helpful, i am only 15 and i want to iprove my posturewhile i am young, this is great thanks :)

  17. Thanks for this wonderful post as this has really helped me to get rid of my back ache problem which i have been suffering for the last 5 months.

  18. Lots of great information for better posture and reducing back pain. Another great stretch for the back is knees to the chest while sitting on your knees and extending your arms out with your hands on the floor.

    I also think planks are great strengthening exercises.

  19. I noticed you had a health category, and saw this post. I’ve been doing some more exercise lately, partly to combat online too much syndrome. You know of what I speak: sitting at the infernal machine for hours at a time. Cool post, I got some nice tips. :-)

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