Standing up straight and walking, you probably do it wrong.

Standing up straight

Posture is important; it is one of the first things people notice about you when you meet them. Nonverbal communication is a huge part of how we interact with each other, and with our own subconscious. People with depression commonly adopt a slumped-over posture, with their shoulders rounded forward and their head forward and down. Remind you of what many of us look like at our computer? That kind of body language can subconsciously have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

If depression isn’t enough, that type of posture can also increase your cortisol levels (stress hormone) and decrease your average hours of sleep per night.

So, how do we fix it?

The key to standing up straight is to maintain a neutral spine. For our purposes, let’s think of a neutral spine as the posture of Superman. Keep it simple: chest up (not all the way up towards the ceiling), chin back, and your abdomen braced slightly. Don’t suck in your stomach; imagine you are going to get punched in the gut by a toddler and brace accordingly. Lastly, try to imagine you want to put your shoulder blades in your back pockets, this will cause you to put your shoulders in a better position and release some of the tension in your traps. And, voila! You are in the posture of the gods. Now all you’ve got to do is maintain this position whether sitting, standing, or walking your dog until the day you die. Easy, right?

If you are like most people, you struggle to maintain this position for just five minutes. Here are three exercises to make maintaining your posture easier than ever:

Chicken heads

While standing up straight, interlace your fingers across your abdomen and attempt to bring your chin back as far as possible. Hold for two seconds, relax, and repeat.

Chicken heads are a great exercise to fight forward head posture. It helps you relearn a healthier head position. This motion is tiny, but mighty effective.

Farmer’s walks

DSCF2149.jpg

For this exercise all you need are two weights. The goal is to keep the weight inline with your body while walking with good posture.  Imagine there is a straight line from your ear to the weight. 

The logic behind this exercise is simple: if you can walk around in good posture with weight in your hands, you can probably do it easier without any, too.

Chest stretch

There are a million ways to do this stretch at many different angles that will help. A great one to start with is with your elbow at shoulder height.

The more you sit with your shoulders rounded forward, the tighter your chest muscles get. Those tight chest muscles in turn exacerbate those rounded shoulders. Therefore, a great step to toward better posture is regularly stretching your chest.

Walking

You are probably pretty good at this one; you do it all the time. As long as you are not falling forward with every step or letting your head get places before your feet, our work here won’t be too strenuous. 

Just try to maintain a neutral spine and keep your feet pointed straight ahead. If this is something you feel great about, head over to the next fundamental movement, but you might find that harder than it sounds.

(You may want to take a second to find out if you keep your feet straight. Grab your phone, point it toward your feet, look straight ahead, and record your walking.)

The most common issue a sedentary person has with walking is keeping their feet straight. If this is true for you, it is likely the result of one of two things: tight calves or turning your hips out or in. This is often referred to as duck walking or being pigeon-toed, respectively. Luckily, both problems have a simple solution.

Start by taking off your shoes. Actually, take your shoes off whenever possible. There are tons of muscles in your feet and ankles that can benefit from some barefoot time—it’s like effortless strength training. It’s especially important in this instance because your shoes could be making your foot alignment worse. Three quick ways to improve your walking:

1) Stretch your calves- If you have trouble keeping your feet straight when walking there is a good chance they are tight. 

DSCF2141.jpg

2) Heel Taps- Practice tracking your knees properly. 

3) Walk with consciousness- Bare foot but not on concrete. Walking around barefoot is a drill you likely already preform on a daily basis, now all I want you to do is think about moving properly. Work your way up to exercises barefoot. (Warning: Do not attempt to run or do plyometric training barefoot until you take the necessary time to transition!)

Jake Dermer