There’s more to good posture than sitting up straight. If you’re serious about improving the way you hold yourself you’ll need core strength, flexibility and a fair amount of determination.
“Bad posture is a habit,” says physiotherapist and osteopath Tim Allardyce of Surrey Physio (surreyphysio.co.uk). “To address it you need the right computer set up, the right exercise and the right mindset. If you don’t have good core strength, for example, then sitting up straight will make you achy, encouraging you to slouch. Equally, if you don’t maintain flexibility in your spine, then it can become stiff and contribute to back pain.”
Fortunately there are plenty of tools on the market to help. So we’ve teamed up with Allardyce - who has worked with some of Britain's top athletes and Olympians - to find the best equipment to ‘back’ you up.
1. 66fit EVA foam roller 90cm x 10cm: £18.76, Amazon
“Lying lengthways on this foam roller - so that it runs down the middle of your back supporting your head and sacrum - will extend your spine backwards, which is great for helping prevent a rounded back,” says Allardyce. “Use for two or three minutes every day, especially after a long day of sitting. You can also roll on it to release tense muscles.”
2. Backboard Light: £39.99 Back Pain Help
This is an adjustable, lightweight backrest, with seat strap, to provide support in an office chair or even on the sofa. “It provides support for the mid back, which helps prevent upper back rounding,” says Allardyce. “You don’t have to use it all day if you find it uncomfortable. Regular shorter periods can still help train your body to recognise the right position.”
3. Posture stand: £49.99, Back Pain Help
This is a fully adjustable stand for more ergonomic laptop use at your desk, on the sofa or even in bed. It also doubles as an inexpensive standing desk. “Looking down at a laptop for extended periods can lead to repetitive straining of the neck muscles, which can cause neck and shoulder pain as well as tension headaches,” says Allardyce. “Something as simple as raising your laptop up can make a huge difference.” Comes in a variety of colours and with a free mouse stand.
4. 66fit gym ball and pump: From £17, 66fit
“Sitting on a gym ball for just 30 minutes a day will strengthen the deep core muscles which enable us to hold good posture,” says Allardyce. “It can also be used for core exercises such as planks and press ups.” This one comes with a pump, and in 55cm, 65cm and 75cm-diameter models.
5. Back App 2.0: £555.60 Back2
“This is one of the most comfortable saddle stools you will sit on,” says Allardyce. “Saddle stools are excellent for stabilising the pelvis by splaying the legs into a V-shape which encourages good posture.” Choose from a variety of colours and fabrics. It's expensive, yes, but we've been using it since the new year and have really noticed the difference.
6. Lumolift posture coach and activity tracker: £59.99, Amazon
This tiny device - worn discreetly on a bra strap or tight-fitting t-shirt – vibrates when the wearer slouches. It tracks posture throughout the day via a smartphone app (compatible with all mainstream operating systems) as well as counting steps and calories burned. “You can’t rely on a device to improve your posture for you but this kind of biofeedback, which alerts us to the way we are holding ourselves, is really useful to remind us to straighten up,” says Allardyce.
7. Tempur original pillow: From £85, John Lewis
“Wake up with a stiff neck in the morning? Try changing your pillow,” says Allardyce. “This one moulds to the shape of your neck and has a raised section at the front, providing support for the natural arch of the neck. If you find it hard, try placing a thin feather pillow over the top.” Comes with a three-year guarantee and in a range of sizes.
8. Mobile phone holder: £10, Amazon
“We tend to look down at smartphones, laying them on our desk or holding them in our lap,” says Allardyce. “This can lead to achy shoulders and neck pain. This inexpensive, flexible stand is a simple way to address the problem by raising your device up.” It’s compatible with most phones and will clip to a desk or bedside table.
9. Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO: £119, Primal Lifestyle
“Barefoot shoes work the muscles in our feet better than normal shoes, which is good for balance and posture,” says Allardyce. “They can also help with knee and back pain. The more you can walk in them the better, and with a little training on how to change your gait, you can also use them for running.” Designed for comfort and breathability, this model also has a slightly thickened sole, for increased protection from impact. These come in a range of colours and you can now pre-order the latest update to the style (available March).
10. Nike long length 2.0 resistance band: £16, Nike
“Resistance bands are a great way to strengthen important muscles groups,” says Allardyce. “Using the band to do a ‘bent over row’ exercise, for example – Lean forward to a 45 degree angle and pull the band backwards using two hands, keeping your elbows tucked in towards your side. The band can be attached to a table leg in front of you –will strengthen the muscles in the mid back well as the trapezius and rhomboid muscles which hold the shoulders in place. The grips on this band make it extra-comfortable to use.”
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