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Best Chair Exercises to Improve Posture

Man with poor and good posture on grey background

Authored by Judy Caramello – Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health

The definition of posture is the position in which someone holds their body while standing, sitting, or lying down.  

As a child growing up in my teens- I had a growth spurt and was taller than all my peers.  I remember feeling self-conscious and my mother always reminded me to stand up tall and have good posture.  I still have a vivid memory of her always telling me to pull my shoulders back.  Now in my mid-fifties with age taking its toll and my shoulders starting to naturally round- I realize that good posture is something that I always have to work at.  I also realize I am constantly reminding my eighteen-year-old daughter to stand up straight. 

The history of emphasizing good posture appears to go back to the 18th century when those who sat up straight were considered dignified and proper posture was considered essential in formal situations.   The corset was invented in 1850 and was designed to promote erect posture and cinch the waist.  Moving into the 1930’s it is said that Ivy league administrators would dismiss students if their posture and physical condition were deemed inappropriate at enrollment.   30% of first-year students were assigned special exercise assignments to correct postural defects.  Now in the 21st modern technology has people working on computers and at desks for hours at a time.  All the sitting and forward motion has a natural tendency to round people’s upper back and shoulders.    

Posture also plays a large role in body language and the signals we send to others.  If an individual has arms folded and shoulders rounded they come across as defensive and negative.   A slouched back and shoulders can send a message of a lack of confidence.  On the other hand, a straight tall back and neck exude confidence and more of an open mind.   

Poor posture can create numerous conditions in people including headaches, back pain, spinal curvature, nerve damage, and strained back muscles, bones, and other body parts.   In severe situations, it can lead to chronic back pain.   

Good Posture

Good posture has numerous positive benefits.  It helps keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that muscles can function properly.  It also helps prevent fatigue since muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.  Sitting with an upright posture can also improve your coping mechanisms for stress, and cause you to think positive.  Correcting your posture improves circulation, digestion, and helps easier breathing.  Perhaps the top benefit of good posture is that it can help boost your self-confidence which will enable you to give off a slimmer younger appearance.   

The most effective and easiest way to keep from slouching and to stand tall is through exercise and stretching.  The only item you need for the following simple moves is a chair, and I recommend a goal of performing these moves 3-5 times per week.    

Chair Exercises to Improve Posture

SHOULDER ROLLS

Start by sitting up nice and tall on the edge of the chair.  Let your arms extend towards the floor from your shoulders.  Wiggle your hands and fingers and make sure they are loose.  Rotate shoulders in a forward circular motion keeping your back straight and take nice steady breaths. Then continue to roll your shoulders backward up towards your ears then down your back. 

CAT/COW STRETCH

Sit up nice and tall with a neutral spine so your back is not against the backrest.  Feet are flat on the floor, knees over your heels, and square shoulders over your hips.   Tilt your hips forward to create a neutral spine so the sit bones go back up and the pubis bone goes under and down.  To start the exercise, place your hands on your thighs and add pressure to elongate your spine to the cat pose.  Let out a big exhale and bring your belly to your spine and your back towards the chair.  The shoulders round forward as you tilt your hips under towards the front of the seat and the head dropping.   Next comes cow pose by taking a deep breath in bringing the belly forward with the chest opening and the shoulders pulling back and your head coming up and back within your comfort zone.  The sit bones will be going back and the spine will be in a slight backbend.  

SIDE BENDS HANDS BEHIND HEAD

Benefits the arms, shoulders, upper back, chest, and neck.  Breathe in as you sit up nice and tall and place each hand behind your head with your thumbs on the base of your neck.   Your elbows should be in line with your hips and your core tight.  Alternate bending side to side keeping the chest open and lifted. 

SEATED SIDE STRETCH

Sit up straight at the edge of the chair and keep both feet flat on the floor. Keep your spine straight, back upright, and lower body and hips in a stable position.  Grip the side of the chair with the right hand, then extend the left hand above your head and make a C shape. Keep the elbow back and sit tall.  Repeat to the other side. 

CROSSED LEG SEATED TWIST

Sitting up nice and tall at the edge of the chair cross your right leg over your left.   Place your left hand on the outside of your right thigh and twist to the right opening up your right arm palm open and stretch out the chest.  Repeat to the other side.  

DOWNWARD DOG

This stretches out your lower back, hamstrings, shoulders, and arms.  Stand in front of the chair facing the seated portion about 4 feet away.  Keep both hands on the chair and push your hips back until both feet are flat on the floor.  Keep your upper body relaxed and push your tailbone up and back and hands down to the chair.  Stretch out your chest and open your back by bending your knees as much as needed.   

So next time you are working hard at your desk or computer and find your shoulders drooping, try these simple and effective moves and remember mom really does know best!

Judy Caramello
Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health

Click here for more information about the wellness and weight loss programs at Hilton Head Health, recently named the #1 Wellness Resort the Country by USA Today