How to Fix Bad Posture

Why good posture matters

It’s something most of us take for granted: posture. Whether you’re standing, sitting at your desk or looking down at your smartphone, posture plays a big role in your health.

Good posture leads to numerous benefits, including:

— Improving cardiac output and respirations.

— Preventing joint pain and muscle fatigue.

Reducing risk of injuries.

— Protecting against degenerative arthritis.

In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated the positive relationship between improved posture and reduction of joint pain. One 2018 study showed that greater awareness of posture can reduce chronic pain in people with spinal and shoulder pain.

“With good posture, movements of the body are more efficient, which means less strain is placed on the joints or surrounding muscles and tendons,” says Dr. Miho Tanaka, director of the Women’s Sports Medicine program at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.

What is good posture?

Good posture refers to how the body is positioned to improve its structure and mechanics, while reducing unnecessary stress on the joints and muscles. Good posture is when a person is standing straight with shoulders back, and the head is directly over the middle of the pelvis, the area of the body below the stomach between the hip bones.

Several muscle groups — including the hamstrings, large back muscles and abdominal muscles — are critically important in maintaining posture.

There are two main types of posture:

Dynamic posture: This refers to the body’s position while moving, like walking, running, bending over or lifting something up. Depending on the activity, the location of the head may be in front or behind the pelvis.

Static posture: This is the position and alignment of the body in a stationary position, such as sitting, standing or sleeping. The head should be directly over the pelvis when standing.

Good posture is all about balance, which is easier for children, adolescents and younger adults to achieve. But as people get older, it is common for spinal discs — the soft cushion layered in between each vertebrae — to wear out and for arthritis to affect the joints of the spine, explains Dr. Robert Cho, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Shriner Children’s Southern California in Pasadena.

Signs of bad posture

Bad posture can strain muscles and may cause them to relax when held in certain positions for long periods of time. As a result, poor posture is associated with musculoskeletal problems, such as neck and back pain, along with other types of joint problems.

There are several poor postures to be aware of, including:

Flat-back position: The spine has a natural curve to it, but when the curves flatten as a result of bad posture, it causes the head to poke forward with slouched shoulders and the pelvis to tip backward.

Forward-head position: This position tends to cause a straightening of the cervical curve, which in turn can cause pain, headache, premature disc degeneration and arthritis.

Hunchback position: Forward-head position and slumped posture can also round the thoracic spine, a condition called kyphosis or the hunchback position.

Swayback position: Technically referred to as lordosis, this position occurs when the natural curve between your cervical spine and lumbar spine becomes more pronounced. This gives the appearance of leaning back when standing with forward-tilting hips and exaggerated outward curve of the upper back.

“Most people fall into the trap of forward-head position when texting, working on a laptop or doing other kinds of taskwork,” says Karen Erickson, a private practice chiropractor in New York.

How to fix bad posture

Even if you have a tendency to slouch, there are several ways to address the health consequences of bad posture. Improving posture begins by identifying tendencies that lead to misalignment in the spine and slouching, then learning the ideal position for those specific body parts. It also requires a conscious effort to correct any poor posture habits and maintain adequate muscle strength and flexibility.

“Exercises and stretches to help build strength and improve flexibility are an important part of correcting posture and treating joint pain,” Tanaka says.

When good posture is attained, the joints should feel aligned, weight is distributed evenly and the muscles should feel relaxed and balanced.

“Individuals should be able to stand or sit for extended periods of time without discomfort or pain,” Cho says. “They should feel well-balanced with minimal effort in sitting or standing in keeping their heads directly over their pelvis.”

There are exercises to help improve your posture. Before you start an exercise routine, it’s important to get a baseline of where your posture is.

“I refer to it as exercise zero because it’s not part of an exercise protocol, but it should be the starting point,” explains chiropractor and posture expert Steven Weiniger, founder of StrongPosture exercise protocols.

In his book, “Stand Taller Live Longer,” Weiniger lists several exercises to help improve posture that can lead to better overall health.

Stork pose

One of the best exercises to improve your posture is the stork pose, which entails standing on one foot and balancing your weight and switching to the other foot and holding your balance. Similar to a popular yoga position, the stork pose works several muscles, including feet and ankles, knees and quadriceps.


— Stand straight and focus on something across from you at eye level.

— Keep your arms at your side, stretched out in front of you or above your head — whichever feels comfortable to you.

— Lift your right leg and bend the knee at 90-degree angle.

— Hold the position for 30 seconds.

— Place your right leg back down, and switch legs.

— To keep your balance, don’t wave your arms, twist or dance/hop around.

— Do three times a day (or more if you want).


— Maintaining balance strengthens the leg muscles and stretches the buttocks muscles.

— Counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting.

— Builds confidence and helps steady your mind.

Ball sit

Sometimes called stability balls, exercise balls are a key tool to achieving good posture. Easily purchased online or at your local retail store for under $30, exercise balls help you become more aware of your body so it naturally achieves balance.

“Using a ball requires concentration of the core muscles because there’s no back support,” Weiniger says. “As soon as you relax, your posture suffers, so there’s motivation to sit tall and stay focused.”


— Sit on the ball and get comfortable.

— Keep your back as straight as possible — don’t slump over.

— Place your feet hip distance apart and square on the floor.

— Make sure both knees are at 90 degrees to the floor.

— Roll the shoulders back and down, pulling the tips of the shoulder blades together with the hands on things, palms up.

— Look straight ahead and pull the head directly over the shoulders.

— Take five slow belly breaths.


— Strengthens the core muscles and postural proprioception, which is the body’s ability to sense position and movement for posture and balance.

— Builds concentration.

Ball march

Once you have mastered balancing on an exercise ball, the ball march exercise helps deepen core muscle strength. The key is keeping the head and torso strong and stable during the exercise.


— Sit on the ball, with your feet parallel to each other, and pull your belly in.

— Keeping the toes down, lift your right heel slowly off the ground and put it back down.

— Keep your posture erect with your head, shoulders, and knees strong and aligned.

— Repeat with your left heel.

— Sit up as straight as possible — don’t slump over.

— Place your feet hip distance.


— Strengthens the core muscles to help improve posture.

Wall tilts

Wall tilts can help you achieve stronger posture by strengthening awareness of core muscles. Sometimes referred to as focused pelvic tilts, wall tilts help create consciousness of one’s posture.

“Posture works from the bottom up, so improving posture requires stabilizing the lower body before the upper body,” Weiniger says.


— Stand leaning against the wall with your back straight.

— Position your feet about a foot from the wall.

— Lock the knees and press buttocks against the wall.

— Press shoulders against the wall, keeping them lowered and relaxed.

— Keep your head level and, if possible, put it against the wall, while comfortably keeping head level and eyes facing forward.

— Flatten your lower back so the small of your back touches the wall in a pelvic tuck.

— At the end of your tuck, pull your stomach in while pressing your belly button to the wall.

— Gently arch your low back in a pelvic arch.

— Repeat five times, pressing the tuck and exploring the arch.

— Breathe in on the arch, out on the tuck.


— Counteracts a curved or flexed posture.

— Activates the upper back muscles to keep shoulders pushed back.

— Helps lengthen and strengthen the muscles in your chest, spine and trunk.

Neck retractions

After learning posture control, the next exercise to learn is control of the head.

“It’s not surprising that people with forward head posture complain that their neck muscles are tired,” Weiniger says.


— Start by being in a wall tilt position, feet shoulder-width apart and about a foot from the wall.

— Let your shoulders drop and pull the tips of your shoulder blades in toward your spine.

— Look straight ahead and keep your head and chin level.

— Slowly press your head straight back toward the wall and then let it glide forward.

— Maintain a pelvic tilt and use five slow breaths to control your motion.


— Increases awareness of the head position.

— Strengthens control of your head and neck motion.

Find your breath

In addition to practicing exercises to fix bad posture, there are several lifestyle habits you can incorporate into your daily routine, as well.

It’s important to take deep breaths during exercises and throughout our day. How we breathe can significantly impact our overall health and wellness. For example, breathing deeply can positively affect the heart rate, blood pressure and mental clarity. This practice can also help put the body back into its natural position that promotes better posture and builds abdominal and breathing muscles.

Practice good sleep habits

Always avoid stomach sleeping because of the misalignment with your spine. The best position for sleeping is on the back to better align the neck, spine, head. Back-sleeping helps you maintain a neutral position and distributes your weight evenly across the body, reducing the unnatural curving of the spine.

Consider an extra pillow between the knees or under the knees. If you need additional support, try a small, rolled towel under your waist. Make sure to support your neck with a pillow.

Embrace ergonomics

Sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to maintaining good posture. Experts recommend getting up from your desk every hour or so to walk and stretch.

But given how long many of us sit at a desk, an ergonomic workstation is key to good posture. Ergonomic-outfitted desks can improve your posture and reduce lower back pain.

Outfit your desk at the office or home with a chair that allows your feet to comfortably touch the floor and supports your lower back. Using a keyboard tray that brings the keyboard over your lap to type will help keep your elbows at your sides rather than slouching to reach forward. Ergonomic assessments of a desk or workstation are commonly offered for office workers or, for those who work remotely, can be done at home for a small fee.

Incorporate stretching routines

Stretching can help build strength and improve flexibility to correct posture and treat joint pain. You can work with your physician, chiropractor or physical therapist to identify the right stretches to improve your posture. For example, neck muscle stretches can help address a forward-head and rounded shoulders.

Stay active

Any kind of exercise may help improve your posture, but certain types of exercises can be especially helpful. Pilates, tai chi and yoga are a few excellent examples of exercises that build strength and flexibility — all of which will help improve posture.

Bottom line

Today’s culture of sitting at a desk, spending time on our computers and staring at our mobile phones for long hours lends itself to bad posture. The lack of motion of specific joints contributes to long-term posture problems. Even when poor posture is the norm, there are ways to correct those habits and get back to healthy alignment. Following certain exercises can help correct and avoid posture-related health problems.

Correcting posture begins by identifying tendencies for incorrect posture, and then learning the ideal position for those specific body parts. It also requires a conscious choice to correct any poor habits that may get in the way of maintaining good posture.

“When trying new exercises to improve posture you may feel tightness or stretching that you previously never felt,” Weiniger says. “This is normal and topical pain relief ointments usually provide relief. Consult with a health care professional if the pain increases.”

Exercises and tips to fix bad posture

Exercises to fix bad posture:

— Stork pose.

— Ball sit.

— Ball march.

— Wall tilts.

— Neck retractions.

Tips to improve posture:

— Find your breath.

— Practice good sleep habits.

— Embrace ergonomics.

— Incorporate stretching routines.

— Stay active.

More from U.S. News

Stress-Relieving Exercises to Help You Feel More Relaxed and Empowered

Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise: Why Exercise Is Important

Exercise: How Much Do I Need?

How to Fix Bad Posture originally appeared on

Update 04/12/24: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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