Many of us spend our days curving our body into a question mark over our laptops from 9 to 5, only to come home and assume the same position over our phones, iPads, and Kindles. It’s no surprise that we end up feeling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame—or a desk goblin.

Yet forcing ourselves to sit up straight is really just a Band-Aid on the problem, says Bridget O’Carroll, owner and founder of Studio Qila, a Pilates-inspired online fitness studio. Because, let’s be honest, you’ll often find yourself back to your wilted ways just five minutes later.

We default to this hunched position because, over time, our muscles grow accustomed to it, explains O’Carroll. Our chest tightens, we strain the ligaments and muscles around our spine, our shoulders curve forward and eventually a long day at the office leads to nagging aches and pains.

So, instead of internally barking at yourself to “stop slouching,” a smarter solution is to start introducing mobility exercises for better posture into your daily grind.

“The root of the issue is often we live our lives with our arms out in front of us,” O’Carroll says. “So what this mobility is doing is it’s opening us back up, and it’s strengthening our opposite muscles—so in our back and our shoulders.”

Mobility exercises for better posture

O’Carroll has three go-to mobility moves she does when she’s succumbed to the slouch. Try incorporating them into your daily routine to open up and rebalance the strength throughout your body.

Shoulder press

  1. Stand or sit tall with your arms in a goal post position (option to stand with your back against a wall and press the backs of your hands and forearms against the wall).
  2. Slowly press your arms straight overhead, and then return to the goal post position.
  3. Repeat for one minute.

Half bow

  1. Begin with your arms in a goal post position.
  2. Slowly rotate your arms down until your palms are in line with your elbow, and then return to the goal post position.
  3. Repeat for one minute.

Reach and rotation

  1. Extend your arms out into a T slightly in front of your shoulders with your palms facing backward.
  2. Slowly bend your elbows to pull your arms in and squeeze your elbows toward each other behind your back while rotating your palms to face forward.
  3. Return to your starting T position.
  4. Repeat for one minute.

O’Carroll recommends repeating this circuit two or three times each day, or anytime you catch yourself slouching on the job. All three of these exercises will open up your chest and pull your shoulders back. The Half Bow and Reach and Rotation also strengthen your rotator cuff, which will help prevent your shoulders from creeping up throughout the day.

Put it all together and it’s a recipe for relief until the day when that tall, open position becomes your body’s default. They don’t call it muscle memory for nothing!

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