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How to improve your posture

Here are tips to improve your posture at work and at home:

  • When seated, keep your back straight, try to keep your knees and your hips level, and your feet flat on the ground. You may need a footrest to keep your hips and knees level. If you sit for long periods you should support your lower back against the back of your chair, such as with a small rolled up towel, or commercial product.
  • Don’t spend too long sitting on low-seated settees.
  • When standing, try to keep your back straight, your head facing forward, and your weight balanced evenly on your two feet.
  • Wear flat, well-fitting shoes to assist with even weight distribution.
  • Avoid sitting in a hunched position for long periods of time, such as when using a laptop or desktop computer. Make sure you get up and move around at regular intervals to alter your body position.
  • Try not to cross your legs when seated as it can overstretch one side of your leg muscles and change the alignment of your spine over time, particularly if you always cross your legs the same way.
  • If your job involves lots of repetitive tasks or lifting and bending, ask your employer about training in the correct way to lift and carry heavy or bulky, awkward objects.
  • If you spend a lot of time on the telephone, you run the risk of phone strain. You may find a headset is more comfortable than resting a telephone on your shoulder and twisting your neck to keep the phone in place.
  • Take care when carrying heavy bags of books, computer equipment or shopping. Make sure that you distribute the weight of your bags evenly on either side of your body. A backpack can distribute weight evenly over your shoulders.
  • When driving, make sure your car seat and headrest are in the correct position to promote safe, comfortable driving. The Roads and Maritime website provides advice about how your headrest should be adjusted and further information on good driving posture.
  • If you are a carer and spend a lot of time lifting, pushing or carrying the person you care for, make sure you look after your own posture by undertaking such physical activities correctly.
  • When sleeping, try to use a single firm support pillow to prevent neck pain developing.

Research has shown that everyone can do some simple exercise and stretching to reinforce good posture and to reduce bad posture, for example:

  • Exercise regularly - even a brisk walk for 10 minutes a day will help you improve your general health and your posture by keeping your body supple and active.
  • Do gentle exercises such as those in yoga and Pilates to help strengthen the support muscles in your back and stomach and improve your posture.
  • Spend 10 minutes a day doing simple stretching exercises.
  • Stand tall, which means straightening your spine, moving your shoulders down to their natural resting position and breathing in to tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Do simple head movements to help loosen tightened neck muscles that can interfere with good posture. Try gently moving your head in small circles, or from front to back and side to side.
  • Lie flat on the ground for two to three minutes once a day without using any cushions or support and relax to allow your body to readjust to its natural resting position.

You should contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing weakness or numbness in one or both limbs.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about how to improve your posture, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

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