9 Ways to Have Great Posture as You Age

From the right vitamins to easy exercises, here are some ways to keep your spine straight.

Now that many of us spend our days hunched in front of a computer, "it's very important for us to be able to stretch and open up and improve our range of motion," said Jonathan F. Bean, MD, MS, MPH, an assistant professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

To stay limber, try to get up for a couple minutes every half hour and stretch, walk, or stand.

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Easy Exercises

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), any kind of exercise may help improve your posture, but exercises that strengthen your core (muscles around your back, abdomen, and pelvis) are the best.

One of the best exercises for core strength is the plank. Here's how you do it: Lie facedown with your legs extended and elbows bent and directly under your shoulders. Place your palms flat on the floor, your feet hip-width apart, and your elbows shoulder-width apart. Engage your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body (forearms remain on the ground). You should form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

You may also try different variations, such as a one-arm plank or high plank. With any new exercise, start slowly and stop if you feel acute pain.

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Sit Straight

When you do have to work at a desk, "sitting up with good, tall posture and your shoulders dropped is a good habit to get into," Rebecca Seguin, PhD, a public health scientist and nutritionist at Texas A&M University, told Health.

This can take some getting used to. Movement practices that focus on body awareness, such as Pilates and yoga, can help you stay sitting straight, said Dr. Seguin.

Make sure your workstation is set up to promote proper posture. According to the UCLA Ergonomics Program, setting up a workstation for healthy posture involves proper positioning of keyboard, monitor, documents, phone, and chair. Your seat height should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips. Your upper and lower back should be supported and your shoulders relaxed. It is also important to take frequent breaks to stretch and rest muscles and eyes.

You also may want to try a standing workstation, said the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA). Working in the same posture or sitting still for prolonged periods is not good for your body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prolonged sitting has emerged as a risk factor for various negative health outcomes including premature mortality; chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; metabolic syndrome; and obesity. Standing at a workstation is good for posture as it aligns the legs, torso, neck, and head.

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Strengthen Your Core

According to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Yoga (IJY), the "core" is a muscular network that includes the diaphragm abdominal and oblique muscles, paraspinal and gluteal muscles and pelvic floor.

These muscles produce a corset-like stabilization effect on the trunk and spine. A strong and efficient core is necessary for maintaining proper muscle balance.

According to the IYJ article, strong core can improve muscle endurance, back strength, balance, and provide other benefits, from improving your athletic performance. As the core also includes the pelvic floor, pelvic floor muscle training exercises can help strengthen the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel (large intestine), says Medline Plus. This can help improve problems with urine leakage or bowel control.

Plank extensions, straight arm crunches, army crawls, and other core-based exercises are ideal for core conditioning. To work on your core throughout the day, you can try isometric exercises, which are done in a still (static) position, according to the CDC. Examples include planks or drawing in your abs. You can also try engaging your core through a standing exercise called the anti-flexion standing march.

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Say Om

Pilates and yoga are great ways to build up the strength of your core—the muscles of your abdomen and pelvic area. In addition to helping to increase body awareness and core strength, yoga is an excellent way to build and maintain flexibility and strengthen muscles throughout your body, said Dr. Bean.

According to the 2017 IJY study, the practice of yoga poses, or asanas, was developed as an approach to align, strengthen, and balance the structure of the body. Certain asanas were found by the study researchers to be very effective as core stabilizers including Uddiyana Bandha (retraction of abdomen), Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose), Vrikshasana (Tree Pose) and Chaturanga Dandasana (low plank).

Start practicing yoga gradually and listen to how your body responds, added Dr. Bean. Make sure your yoga teacher is sensitive to your needs and abilities, and available for feedback. Hatha or restorative yoga are good places to start if you're a beginner. Hatha yoga is one of the most beginner-friendly forms of yoga, focusing on deep breathing and gentle movements to relax and calm the body. Whereas restorative yoga is a type of yoga known for its relaxing, calming and healing effect, according to yogapedia.

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Support Your Spine

As we age, we lose bone mass or density, according to the NLM. The bones lose calcium and other minerals. The vertebrae (or bones that make up the spine) lose some of their mineral content, making each bone thinner. The gel-like cushions between vertebrae (called disks) lose fluid and become thinner. The spinal column becomes curved and compressed (packed together). Bone spurs caused by aging and overall use of the spine may also form on the vertebrae.

This is especially true for people after menopause. According to Dr. Bean, after menopause, you may have more weakening in the muscles around the spine than someone who does not experience menopause.

According to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, menopausal hormonal changes lead to a loss of muscle and bone tissue. The study authors conclude that menopause-related hormonal changes can predispose people to muscle atropy and osteoporosis and further to mobility disability and fall-related fractures in later life.

For these reasons, it especially important to practice exercises targeting the back extensors, neck flexors, pelvic muscles, and side muscles. Trainers at gyms can help; there are even special machines that target these muscles.

Endurance in the spine and trunk muscle groups is important too, according to Dr. Bean. "That's what allows us to stand up for long periods of time without our back hurting us."

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Lift Weights

The vertebral compression fractures that subtract from our height—and can lead to the "dowager's hump" in the upper back that's a hallmark of old age—are due to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease and is characterized by weakening of bone tissue, bone structure, and strength. It may lead to increased risk of fractures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People can prevent these changes with weight-bearing exercises, including walking, stair climbing, and weight lifting.

"People who walk regularly through their whole lives tend to have better bone density than sedentary people," said Dr. Seguin.

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Vitamin D

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamin D is essential for bone health and healthy muscles. And it's best to get vitamin D (and calcium) from foods to help maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. The NIH explains that most of us get enough vitamin D from food and sunlight without taking supplements. Taking vitamin D and calcium supplements slightly increases bone strength in older adults, but it's not clear whether supplements reduce the risk of falling or breaking a bone.

The recommended dietary intake for vitamin D, according to the NIH, is 600 IU a day for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for adults older than 70.

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Eat Foods That Are Good for You

We all know the bone benefits of calcium. According to the NIH, adults aged 19 to 50 years old and adult men aged 51–70 years old should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Women over 50 years old and all adults 71 years and older should get 1,200 mg daily.

Calcium is found in many foods. According to the NIH, you can get recommended amounts of calcium by eating a variety of foods, including milk, yogurt, cheese, canned sardines, salmon, vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage), and most grains.

As with vitamin D, it may be best to get calcium from food rather than supplements.

Talk with your healthcare provider about whether or not you need to take supplemental calcium.

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