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Did your mother ever tell you to sit up straight? Perhaps it made you grumble as a teenager, but now you know how important this advice was. Good posture will help to avoid or decrease pain, and will also improve how you look and feel.

As one ages, poor posture often develops into a stooped neck and back. Simple exercises can help build the muscle groups that will allow adults to maintain good posture.

Posture exercises are not difficult. They begin with a more mindful approach to how one sits and stands. This awareness gradually flows into natural motions that build coordination and muscle tone.

The first step is to check with a medical professional. Posture exercises are typically gentle, but if you have neck or back issues that could be worsened by new stretches, seeking a professional opinion is important.

Here are some exercises to get you started and make you aware of your posture.

Chin Tuck and Jut
Relax comfortably in a chair and lift your ribs. Slowly tuck your chin in, then down toward your chest. Rest in that position for a few seconds and then extend your chin forward. Return to a natural position. Repeat 10 times or as many times as you feel comfortable.

Shoulder Circles
Sit comfortably in a chair and lift your ribs. Slowly raise your shoulders up, back, and then around in a continuous motion. Relax your shoulders and repeat 10 times or as many times as you feel comfortable.

Shoulder Blade Squeezes
Start with your arms at your sides. Imagine there’s a coin between your lower shoulder blades. Press your shoulder blades back and downwards trying to pinch the coin between them. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 5 times or as many times as you feel comfortable.

Seated Cat and Cow
Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your knees. As you inhale, press your hands into your knees and gently and slowly stretch backward. Imagine you’re moving one vertebra at a time, starting at the base of your spine and finishing by extending your neck and looking towards the ceiling – this is the “cow” position.  Exhale into the “cat” position and roll your shoulders forward and pull your belly toward your spine. Your motion should start at the lower back one vertebra at a time, until it finishes at the neck. End with your upper back hunched forward and your head tucked looking at your knees. Keep a continuous movement. Repeat 5 times or as many times as you feel comfortable.

By stretching and keeping joints moving, you can improve posture and range of motion, and maintain better health. A primary benefit of posture exercises is that they make you feel better. Let us know if you stand taller and straighter after a stretch!