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I work 9 till 5 on my pc, then I go home, use my pc, then play a game or two.

My problem is I'm always sitting in my chair and my posture is starting to get really bad! People say "just sit up straight and it will sort itself out" and thats impossible! I'm a programmer, so I sit up straight and 30 seconds later I'm hunched over and don't even realise it!

What can I do? Certain stretches? Exercises?

I go swimming allot and I am in shape with a perfect BMI.

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Have you searched for other questions about posture particularly exercises for better posture, reversing a hunch, or opening up your chest and shoulders? That might be a good start. –  Matt Chan Jun 26 '12 at 12:02
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All of the answers given are good, but I can tell you that as a former swimmer, part of the problem is that swimming overdevelops the front head of the deltoids compared to the rear, so the muscles themselves promote shoulder rounding, which contributes to bad posture. –  JohnP Jun 29 '12 at 20:42
    
Running REALLY helped my posture, and also having an office chair where you can relax and still have good posture is important if you sit in it 8 hours a day. The company I work at pays a significant amount for good ergonomic chairs that keep you relaxed but still in decent posture. –  Nathan Wheeler Jul 2 '12 at 19:03
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if they're unconditioned, see what happens from doing the good standbys of deadlifts, squats and presses. if they're still hunched after a basic lifting program, it's worth looking at exactly why it is that they're hunched –  Robin Ashe Oct 9 '12 at 12:33
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Worth looking into incline dumbbell shrugs. I did them for a while for that reason, but decided to drop them as I felt the core lifts were doing the job. –  Robin Ashe Oct 10 '12 at 2:24
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9 Answers 9

up vote 23 down vote accepted

You can do stretches, strengthening and breathing exercises to improve your posture. But you also have to become aware of your posture and find a way to interrupt prolonged sitting intervals with brief breaks. A good ergonomic chair is also helpful.

Musculo-Skeletal Effects of Poor Sitting Posture:

Poor sitting posture can create muscle imbalances over time.

  • In general, your front stuctures shorten, with muscles like your hip flexors and pectorals tightening up - pulling you into a ball. Your crunched sitting posture caves your lower ribs down towards your abdomen which prevents the diaphragm from expanding freely.
  • At the same time the muscles of your back stretch out and weaken, especially in the range where they should be working to maintain your posture.

As this posture persists over time, you joints begin to lose normal range of motion as well making it more difficult to assume a good posture.

Correcting Slumped Sitting Posture:

Tailor an exercise program to stretch tightened muscles and strengthen weakened muscles. Additionally, you need a method to become aware of your posture and correct it while you are sitting. This is difficult because as you say, your attention is on your work. Exercise programs like Yoga, Tai-Chi and Pilates are good because they all address and make you very aware of your posture, joint alignments, flexibility, core control and breathing.

Use Specific Exercises to Correct Muscle Imbalances:

  • Back, Upper Back and Scapular muscles: Back Extensions strengthen your paraspinals. Use different arm positions (Y, T, W, L) to target your lower traps, mid traps, rhomboids and scapular stabilizors. Learn the feel of retracting your scapulas. You can do these on the floor next to your desk.

    Or if you prefer not to get on the floor, use resistance bands for reverse flys, wide rows, narrow rows and rotations.

    Away from work, you can also strengthen these muscles using weights, cables and body weight exercises like inverted rows, cable rows, bent over rows, reverse flys etc. And squats are a good for strengthening multiple muscles important to posture.

  • Core: Plank, Side Plank, Bird Dog and Bridge will stabilize your trunk and spine.

  • Stretches: - Hip Flexors, Hamstrings, Abs and Pecs. The wall pec stretch stretches the pecs but also contracts the rhomboid and trapezius scapular muscles to help improve the positioning of the shoulder and shoulder blade and is easy to do at work.

  • Sitting Posture and Breathing Awareness - This sitting posture exercise helps make you aware of your sitting alignment and expanding your diaphragm. Practice a few diaphramatic breaths throughout the day along with this sitting exercise to elongate your spine.

Create your ideal short exercise routine that you can do during short breaks during the day. An exercise ball next to your desk can help you target these muscles in just a few minutes:

  1. Lie back over the ball and stretch out your front

  2. Lie face down over the ball and do the Y, W, T, L exercises.

    And consider using the ball as your desk chair for short periods.

Remembering your Posture throughout the day: This is the hard part. As your muscle imbalances begin to resolve and your diaphragmatic breathing improves, you’ll find that the slouched posture becomes less comfortable and you will automatically begin to sit better. Until then, use a timed reminder or try tying your posture corrections to tasks that you do at the computer regularly. For example, correct your posture each time you check your email or some other specific link. Turn on your web cam for visual reminders.

Keep at it until you feel the improvement. You'll have less problems going forward if you improve your posture. It either gets better - or it gets worse.

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Nice answer @BackInShapeBuddy –  Ivo Flipse Jun 27 '12 at 18:26
    
@Ivo thank you. –  BackInShapeBuddy Jun 27 '12 at 18:31
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Berin Loritsch posted this article a few times - 3rd World Squat - a position you can be in while home playing. What I would really recommend is balancing your work and home game play with a regular exercise program. Even if you sit up straight, being seated ALL DAY is not healthy - the impact to your hips, abs, etc. will hurt you in later years. Every 1/2 hr to 45 minutes you need to get up and walk for a few minutes. There's no way to compensate lack of exercise by doing anything but being active and exercising. Get out, work out and enjoy.

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I found doing the third world squat quite difficult initially until I got a ballast. I used a 9lbs toning bar that I held out in front of me to keep myself from tipping over backwards. That helped a lot in the initial stages so I could eventually get to doing it unassisted. –  Robin Ashe Jun 26 '12 at 17:18
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Since you are sitting all day, your hips are very tight as well as your scapula and chest. Thus the best solution is to perform exercises that open up these tight areas. I would focus a lot of pullovers, DB flys and other DB exercises (DB works a better range of motion) focusing on good posture doing the exercises; shoulders squeezed together and a big chest emphasis. Perform a lot of wide grip pull-ups to open up the scapula and focus more on the upper back muscles with rowing; apply a strict form on these exercises to emphasis coming through with a big chest.

An exercise that COULD help would be deep squats. This exercise has been shown to help with flexibility, opening up those hips. Focus on proper technique: keep your chest up, squats through the hips and heels, squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your knees out, point your toes out very slightly, bring your elbows into the hips and look very slightly up to help keep the chest up once the weight gets heavier. You can choose to do this or not, depending on your athletic background. Doing ANY exercise whether it be running, swimming, hiking, etc. will open up your tight muscles from sitting on your hams all day.

Developing good posture will take a few dedicated months/years of doing these exercises coupled with also creating good habits. Really forcing yourself to sit upright at work a few times throughout the day (to start) then slowly work yourself throughout the whole day.

Good posture shows:

  • Correct balance of training (too much bench and curls, 'curls' your posture forward; if you had a choice primarily between back and chest training, perform back work...work back 2 x week and chest 1 x week to compensate the posture muscles more effectively[for e.g.])
  • Good energy and a display of confidence
  • A powerful look drooled over by your missum
  • Biggest thing which will help posture IMO: open up that ribcage (hence I mention flys, pullovers, etc.). Perform yoga (absolutely awesome for posture!!) or pilates. There's your chance to meet women AND work on your posture...50 birds with one stone.

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    Quite frankly for some people, squats of any kind can be dangerous, depending on pre-existing injuries and unideal biomechanics - someone with a long femur and short torso is going to have a much harder time doing squats than someone who's proportional. –  Robin Ashe Jun 27 '12 at 6:38
        
    For what type of person is any kind of squat dangerous? –  user3085 Jun 27 '12 at 6:41
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    Rippetoe, in his book Starting Strength, addresses the issues for people with long femurs and short torsos (see Figure 2-45: imgur.com/tCG1P). They require a change in the squat form, but there is a safe way for them to squat. Both forms "are correct, but both are different due to variations in leg and trunk length". These are both safe. Perhaps people with non-standard limb lengths get injured by trying to mimic the form of people with standard limb lengths. –  user3085 Jun 27 '12 at 7:06
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    That diagram shows the proper forms at the bottom of the squat for people of varying limb dimensions. In addition, people with long femurs will need to adopt a wider stance to help keep their knees a bit further back, but both types of people can get good at squats. Neither is at a higher risk of injury. Nothing replaces the squat for it's ability to train the entire posterior chain. –  user3085 Jun 27 '12 at 7:14
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    Ok, people time to relax. Perhaps Andreas could add Sancho's image to his answer or just point out your should perform squats in the correct form for your body structure. No need to make this discussion personal. If you strongly agree, simply post an opposing answer, add sufficient reference to back up any claims and let the voting sort this out –  Ivo Flipse Jun 27 '12 at 10:07
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    I had/have bad posture and I am a computer programmer as well.

    Best things to do is

    Get a Chiropractor

    I never thought of a chiropractor before but one day I was at a health expo and happened to walk one and all he does is specialize in posture. There seems to be tons of them to who do this.

    Get a Personal Training

    If you get a personal trainer who knows what they are doing they will bitch at you ever-time you don't have good posture while do any exercises and will teach you some exercises and stretches to help out.

    Both do cost a lot of money($44/ chiro session and $50+ for personal trainner session) but for me they been worth.

    I see big improvements in my posture of the year I been doing this.

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    All of the other answers, plus lots of pulling in the gym - rows, pullups, deadlifts - all of these will strengthen your back. Right now, your chest is tight and so your pecs are literally pulling your shoulders forwards. You need to stretch your chest and strengthen your back to start pulling them back into place

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    It doesn't sound like you have a ton of time for exercise, so it's important to stay as active as possible during your day. Start adding some active habits:

    • Stand when you can - during phone calls, webinars, meetings. When you stand, contract your abs to strengthen them and round out your lower back. This will help with your posture.

    • Consider a standing setup at work or at home. Most employers can't spring for a standing desk - at my office I've used boxes, phone books, anything to create lifters for keyboard, monitor and mouse. If that's not feasible at work, at home start playing some games standing up. Or try out a few fitness games (boxing, etc.) that require standing.

    Sitting for 8 hours a day and then more when you go home is harmful and will catch up with you as you age. Start with small changes that fit in with your current lifestyle, and then you'll start feeling better which will motivate you to increase your exercise/activity levels.

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    For me, working with a "swiss ball" (for example, see Exercise ball) and doing yoga has made me more aware of what happens in the core when I lose posture. I think that the awareness is more important to practice than strength since your core strength is probably good enough.

    When working at a screen, I try at all times to keep the posture good and move at least every 30-40 minutes, use a timer or similar.

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    Learn touchtyping if you have to look at your keyboard. Looking at the keyboard while typing is bad for your posture.

    Put your monitor high enough. If I sit straight and look in front of me I'm looking at the middle of my monitor. My monitor stands on a few books that lie on my desk.

    If I would hunched over if would look under my monitor. In my personal experience having a monitor that's high enough produced a big effect for very little effort.

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    Laptops are notoriously bad for this. –  jontyc Nov 29 '12 at 5:48
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    One thing that worked on me was to use light dumbells (say, 5 lbs) and do flies, but let the weights droop as much as you can. This is a great way to stretch out the chest muscles and get the shoulders back, and is a nice complement to exercises.

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