Don't wanna slouch
April 11, 2011 6:37 PM   Subscribe

How do I improve my posture?

So, I have a slouch and I really want to get rid of it. I want to STAND UP STRAIGHT ALL OF THE TIME. When I remember to, I stand up straight. But most of the time I just don't think of it and I know I slouch. I hate it. When I see videos of myself I am horrified by my ugly slouch.

Do you have any tips for getting better at standing up straight??

My friends suggested pilates, but it's hard for me to get to gym classes regularly because I have a little baby and am a full-time mum (breast-feeding all the time). (I go to the gym once or twice a week but I just go when I get the chance, for a quick work-out, can't usually spare a whole hour for a class.) (I get regular exercise walking around with her in the carrier.)

So I'm just wondering if there are any tricks to remembering to stand up straight and maintain good posture.

For the record: I'm 33, 5 foot 2, 50kg, fit and healthy. (I'm also happy, I generally "love life", so my slouch isn't about feeling depressed or ashamed or low self esteem.) I've always slouched.
posted by beccyjoe to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
abs! When you remind yourself to stand up straight, remind your brain to notice the sensation in your abdominal muscles. Let the abs in the front hold you up instead of your shoulders & back. Keep noticing when they engage. Then, instead of reminding yourself to stand up straight, remind yourself to engage your abs. Pretty soon the abs will kick in and take over. Exercises help a lot. Maybe schedule a session or two with a trainer to give you some specific things to do at the gym and at home. (I am finally starting to stand up straight after a lifetime of slouching. My friends think I'm losing weight, but what's really happening is that I am becoming taller!!)
posted by aunt_winnifred at 6:44 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try to be aware of where the back of your head is, if that makes any sense. Like, just building a constant awareness of that has helped me. Also, there's a gadget!
posted by R a c h e l at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

As someone who is developing a bitchin' little dowager's hump at age 30, I'm finding chin retraction stretches helpful. (Third one down, basically just pull your head back to make a double chin) This may be more of a thing for people at desks most of the day, but it isn't so uncommon.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2011

Do you spend time at a computer? Propping up my monitor on a few books so that it's at a more natural eye level has helped me stop slouching when I'm sitting at my desk.
posted by auto-correct at 7:00 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only remotely efficient way I've found of achieving this -- i.e., a way that requires neither the time commitment and cost of a gym, nor the clockwork-orange-level of mental conditioning that (to me) seems required to constantly remind yourself to suck in that gut! and pull back those shoulders! -- is by doing kettlebell swings.

I suspect it was because of the work it did on my hamstrings and lower back -- no ab work ever did anything for my posture, but that might just be me -- but I went from being a no-good sloucher to standing straight as an arrow. And I don't have to remember to stand straight either.
posted by astrochimp at 7:02 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I meant to post a link to a two-armed swing, but the point is the same.
posted by astrochimp at 7:05 PM on April 11, 2011

There are also posture braces available, ranging from the full-on corset-type to a smaller one that hooks around your arms and is basically an adjustable strap.

I have the small one, and it's damn uncomfortable, but it does make me really really mindful of my posture. To the point that if I ignore it too long, my arms fall asleep and then I have to sit up straight..
posted by lockstitch at 7:13 PM on April 11, 2011

Yoga! I know you don't have time to take regular classes, but if you find the time for one or two you'll become familiar with how to hold yourself, and you can practice while you're running errands. Or just get a DVD or two - this might in fact be the better option, since there are plenty of 20-minute yoga DVDs and ones which focus specifically on posture. If you do get to a class, tell the teacher beforehand you're interested in working on your posture.

Nthing that engaging the abs will help you. You don't want to do the holding-your-breath style of sucking in, like you would if you were trying to button some really tight jeans. It's more of a feeling of gently pulling your stomach in and tucking it up towards your ribs a little bit, and you should be able to walk around. When you do it right, you can feel your abs working.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:25 PM on April 11, 2011

Strengthen your core. Stretch your front hip flexors. Engage your glutes.

posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:56 PM on April 11, 2011

I attended a lecture by Esther Gokhale speak a few months ago. I haven't personally read her book, but based on her lecture I think it would be interesting to you. She is all about teaching you little 'tricks' and cues, so that when you DO think about your posture, rather than just thinking "stand up straight!" (and later end up slouching), you take an action that will have a longer lasting, cumulative effect on your posture (such as rolling your shoulders forward a little and then back a lot -- over time you'll end up with your shoulders further back even in a relaxed, 'slouchy' state).
posted by telegraph at 8:22 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: thank you all for the great suggestions!
posted by beccyjoe at 8:41 PM on April 11, 2011

Best answer: I'm also a new mom and at home Pilates on dvd is completely compatible with a little floor time with baby. They love to watch you move your arms and limbs about. Pilates is the only thing that ever developed the muscles I needed to be able to stand up straight all the time.
posted by dipolemoment at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Esther Gokhale at Google
posted by vespabelle at 9:25 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Obviously, it's best if you can get classes, but you may want to check out some pilates & yoga videos - it makes it easy for you to pick your schedule. Ultimately, it comes down to strengthening core- back and front, to giving you strength to sit up straight.

I've just started some traditional Chinese kung fu, and a lot of the exercises have done wonderful things for my back and core strength, and, consequently, my posture. Find something that works for you that you can do at home.
posted by yeloson at 10:06 PM on April 11, 2011

Check out this sidebar in this Wall St Journal article.
posted by tenaciousd at 5:20 AM on April 12, 2011

I remember learning in dance class to imagine myself suspended from the sky, as though there were a string attached to the top of my head. Somehow holding my head as high as I can, imagining myself as tall as possible, brings the rest of my body into line.

Your local public library should have exercise dvds you can borrow. Once you find a couple you like a lot buy them online.
posted by mareli at 6:00 AM on April 12, 2011

Best answer: I have a small interval timer that I set to 'vibrate' (I have a Gymboss) on a certain schedule, then clip it onto my waistband. Every time it buzzes, I put myself back into correct posture.

After a couple of days, I got a lot more mindful of my posture on my own.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:37 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

An alternative to the "imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling you up" visualization, which for some reason didn't work for me:

I slouch sometimes too, hunching my shoulders forward. For some reason reminding myself to keep my shoulders back just made me over-compensate, and the "string at the top of your head" didn't work because I just couldn't latch onto that. However -- imagining that I was showing off my bustline works perfectly; it seems to help everything "align" properly. It also makes me feel just a little bit scandalous, which is always fun. Try making it about showing off your boobs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a really good fitting bra. Like, go to Nordstrom or your local boutique and drop $70-80. They should be able to help you find one for breast feeding.

My super expensive bra only feels comfortable when I'm not slouching. As a bonus: it makes me look like I've lost 20 pounds, no lie. Amazing.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:52 AM on April 12, 2011

"imagining that I was showing off my bustline works perfectly"

OMG I do that too. And it has the bonus side-effect of psychologically counteracting the original reason why I first started slouching way back in grade six.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 12:02 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't even know if OP is female or what, but in general, cueing "show off your boobs" for standing posture will result in a pretty severe state of lordosis. So it might work for some, but I don't recommend it (unless you're bench pressing, in which case "Push your tits up" is an extremely effective cue).
posted by telegraph at 4:59 PM on April 12, 2011

A fair point, telegraph.

I may not be using the term quite accurately; it's more of a lift-the-rib-cage thing. But that's why I mentioned that this was an alternative, because for me, "keep your shoulders back" and "imagine a string coming from your head" didn't quite make me grok what to do -- I ended up trying to stretch my neck like a giraffe and pin my elbows back like I was doing the chicken dance, and that wasn't right either. But someone showing me what to do (actually, a trainer showing me "proper form" for some equipment I was using) made me click on "oh, okay," and for me, "boobs" is my personal shorthand.

But I wasn't clear that this was probably more of a quirky thought; my apologies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 PM on April 12, 2011

My grandmother was apparently taught the Alexander technique by Alexander himself, and the one tidbit I remember her telling me a long time ago was that you should always try and get your head to touch the ceiling and each shoulder to touch the nearest wall, if that makes any sense. Fuck knows what you do if you're outside.
posted by muthecow at 3:04 AM on April 14, 2011

Get a weightlifting coach to show you how to deadlift. Deadlifts: (a) teach you an awareness of what your spine should be like, (b) make you physically practice keeping it that way under load, (c) strengthen the muscles that help you do that, so it becomes easier, and (d) the light soreness can sometimes be a reminder to you to sit up straight.

See these videos for do-it-yourself instruction, but a coach is better until you learn how (because you can't see yourself.)
posted by ctmf at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2011

Best answer: Every time you walk through a door, stand up very straight, and put your shoulders back a bit.

You walk through enough doors in one day that this is enough of a reminder to change the bad habits, as long as you're not taller than some of those doorframes.
posted by talldean at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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