Maybe you slouch over your computer keyboard, or lug your toddler around on your hip, yet maintaining healthy posture probably doesn’t rank as a top priority. But it should! “Good posture creates optimal alignment in your body, helping it function as efficiently and effectively as possible, ” says Erika Bloom, founder and owner of Erika Bloom Pilates. “When you sit, stand, walk, and move with ideal alignment, you help keep your muscles, discs, and nerves healthy, which is necessary for preventing injuries as well as healing existing ones.”
That means, when you’re racking up your daily steps, you’ll be able to move better when you do them, allowing your whole body to function better. “When you walk with proper posture, your gait will be ideal, which helps balance your muscles as you work them, ” Bloom says.
So how do you un-hunch yourself? “Pilates is excellent for honing posture, because it works the exact muscles needed to support optimal alignment—including your core, pelvic floor, and spine, as well as your arms and legs, ” Bloom says.
Try these five mat-based moves from Bloom—which strengthen the muscles that support healthier posture—as often as you can, or two to three times each week.
Targets the core—the key group of muscles responsible for maintaining posture.
Lay on your back, with your arms reaching up toward the ceiling. Your back should be in a neutral position, which is when you can still maintain a natural curve in your spine, with a small space between your low back and the mat. Exhale to engage your transversus abdominis, the large muscles of your abs, feeling your deep core muscles pull in and wrap around your waist like a corset. At the same time, lift each leg to a tabletop position while maintaining a neutral spine. Exhale and lower your arms slightly as you curl your upper back up, and extend your legs out to 45 degrees. Keep your abs pulled in, your low back neutral, and your neck long. Inhale, returning your legs to tabletop position, and lower your head back to start, reaching your arms back up to the ceiling. Repeat for 6 to 10 reps.
Opens the chest and arm muscles while strengthening the muscles along the back of the body, including those in the legs, hips, and shoulders that assist in proper posture.
Sit with your legs straight and together, and your hands placed on the mat behind your body, fingers turned towards you. Press your hands into the mat, to widen your collar bones and lift out of your shoulders. Press your heels into the mat and engage your core to lift your hips off the floor into a reverse plank. Hold this position as you inhale and lift your right leg up, keeping your hips still. Exhale and lower your leg. Switch to your left leg and repeat, alternating legs three times. Lower your hips back down to your seated position, to finish. Perform three to four total sets. (Note: Beginners can start by simply performing the Reverse Plank, and ease into one leg lift per side, building from there.)