Most people think doing a couple of exercises will fix the majority of their postural issues. Yet, we don’t do corrective exercises. And since many of us struggle to do even basic exercises, it is no surprise that stretching and corrective exercises fall even further down on the priority list. Truly, the best exercises for your posture are frequent breaks with a variety of movements: forward and backward, side-to-side, and twisting. Exercises are simply simulations of movement, while true movement is complex and combines all of these directions together. Even with all of the years we’ve put into robotics, we still haven’t come close to reproducing the complexity of human movement.
Forward and backward
Imagine bending down to pick something up: you bend at the waist and reach forward with your arm, maybe taking a step forward for balance. This is an example of our most prevalent movement pattern. Try limiting this movement and see what you find. It will be difficult and inefficient to do so since you have been in the habit for some time. You will be exposed to how we limit our everyday movement.
Side-to-side, or lateral movement, is like that awkward encounter with someone on the street. You try to step left, they do the same, then you step back right, and hilarity ensues. This movement is far less prevalent than forwards and backward, especially for our spine. You develop balance and core control moving side to side, so find ways to include this movement in your breaks from the desk. This includes side bend and reach, side lunge, and snow angel motions.
If we used one word for most of our injuries, it might be twisting. Twisting your ankle, hurting your knee when twisting, pulling your back when you had to pick up a suitcase with a twist, and the list goes on. We tend to twist and turn very infrequently in everyday life. If you don’t practice this movement, you’ll likely injure yourself if forced into it. Twisting requires good control, so add it back into your life slowly. If you want to practice twisting exercises at the gym, go for a range of motion (as far as you can go) and quality, instead of speed and quantity (and it’s best to not use weights!). You can easily add twisting by altering current exercises with a small “twist.”
Remember: all three of these movement patterns work together to create the amazing movements our bodies can perform. When you pick something up, can you bend to the side with a slight twist? Can you go on one leg? Instead of squatting down to get it, can you squat with one foot forward to force some side-to-side movement? Move with variety and don’t sit for hours without movement. That will always be the most potent exercise for your posture.