Operation Stand Tall

By Katie, 5:09 am

If I had a nickel for every time my mom told me to sit up straight, I’d be a wealthy lady. If I had another nickel for every time I didn’t listen to her, I’d be twice as rich. :-?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a sloucher. Sitting at the computer, writing essays or research papers or blog posts, my shoulders inevitably creep up until they’re practically touching my ears. I’m like a little Hunchback of Notre Dame in front of my MacBook.

Honestly, I never thought twice about it; my poor posture was little more than a means of annoying my mother. That is, until a few weeks ago when I saw a photo of myself taken at a public event I attended. There I stood, socializing and networking, all the while with my upper back totally rounded. It looked awkward. Uncomfortable. Unattractive.


I did a little research, and turns out there are a lot of good reasons to work on my posture, besides just pleasing my mama. They include:

  • less back pain (especially important for someone who sits at a desk all day long, like me)
  • increased circulation and blood flow (which means increased energy)
  • facilitation of deep breathing
  • less stress on the joints
  • more positive image (I’m a strong, confident woman, and I want to carry myself in a way that reflects that!)

So I’ve started what I’m calling Operation Stand Tall to improve my posture. I’ve been working on my core strength – lots of planks and supermans – so that the middle of my body doesn’t get so tired so easily.

I’ve also been making more of an effort simply to remember to think about my posture, which for me is half the battle. Every day at 3:00 p.m. – a time when my posture is usually quite poor – an alarm goes off on my phone to remind me to sit up straight. Dave’s also been using Operation Stand Tall as an excuse to channel a line from 30 Rock. “Shoulders back, Lemon,” he says in his best Jack Donaghy voice. :-)

My posture still isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s getting better!

Any other slouchers out there? Any tips for helping me improve my posture?

33 Responses to “Operation Stand Tall”

  1. Karen says:

    Hi, my name is Karen and I’m a sloucher! I constantly find myself hunched over – whether I’m sitting or standing. There have even been some evenings where I have complained of heartburn and my husband’s reply – “Look at how you are sitting.” I will join Operation Stand Tall with you.

  2. Thank you for reminding me to sit up straight :D

  3. Jen says:

    I’m a sloucher too! Like you, I hate the way it makes me look (and what it reflects about me — poor self-esteem, etc.) but it hurts so badly to stand/sit up straight! I’ve had back problems since I was a little kid too, and was actually supposed to do nightly back exercises when I was like 10 in an effort to strengthen my back, per dr.’s orders (note the “supposed to”). Anyway, I try to think about it and force myself to stand up straight too, but it’s hard, and like I said, it hurts! Please continue to share your progress with this and let us know any other tips you discover. The one thing I’ve noticed — a 30-60 min. session of yoga gives me excellent posture the whole rest of the day. I don’t know if it’s all the “lengthening” of the muscles and stretching or what, but I can’t help but sit/stand straight after a session of yoga. It’s probably the main motivating factor in my (too infrequent) yoga practice. I think if I was consistent and did, say 3-4 sessions of yoga a week, it would eventual be “permanent” much like the strengthening exercises you’re mentioning.
    Good luck!

    • Katie says:

      Thanks, Jen! I’ve been meaning to get back into a regular yoga practice, so thank you for reminding me that the two ideas – yoga and posture – are directly connected. I’ll keep you posted. :)

    • Alexis says:

      It hurts not only cus muscles you don’t use weaken but also cus they shorten. This causes muscle congestion which means toxins are held between the muscle fibers and then the muscle inflames. If the middle of your back burns and/or spasms after a short time of sitting up straight the muscles in that area are congested and need to be worked on to stimulate blood circulation. Look up trigger points and muscle congestion. I was almost crippled cus of this condition. Not only in my back but also my hips and legs.

  4. Simply Life says:

    i sat-up a little straighter right when I read this :) Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Faith says:

    I’m a horrible sloucher too. Its probably why I have such bad back pain – I need to work on minding my posture more!

  6. Sportsgirl says:

    I tend to have a good posture because I weight train so much with a lot of focus on my mid back.
    Some tips = strengthen your mid back and work on scapulae control. Look up the exercise YTWL

  7. Kelly says:

    I am terrible at slouching when I sit at my computer. Lately I have traded my desk chair for the stability ball because it forces you to stand up straight. I also have a REALLY bad habit of always rolling my shoulder forward. It is so natural to me that whenever I pull my shoulders back it hurts. Not good!

    • Katie says:

      I’ve heard of people doing that with the stability ball. Not sure if I could pull it off in my work office (it’s fairly formal), but I could definitely do it at my home desk!

  8. k.sol says:

    I’m a terrible sloucher and working on it. One of the best ways my husband gets me to stand up straight is kind of crass, but he tells me to stick my breasts out. It’s hard to slouch when you’re pushing the girls up and out.

    the other thing is to be aware if the back of your head is collapsing into your shoulders. If you think of a string pulling the back of your head toward the sky, keep the chin in and straighten out the neck, it helps considerably.

    • Katie says:

      HAHA! Your husband is very clever! :) And I love the idea of imagining a string. Very helpful!

      • Alexis says:

        If you stick your boobs out you’re probably overextending the thoracic vertebrae. And if that makes you stick your butt out cus your spine moves in unison like a snake… not good! The spine has a natural curve that needs to be maintained so the string/head thing is only good for being aware of forward head syndrome. Your ears should be over the middle of your shoulders, not over your clavicle. Also the ribcage should be directly over the hips and the distance from the ribcage to the hips should be close to the same on both sides. I say close cus we aren’t symmetrical.

        • k.sol says:

          I don’t stick them out THAT far! ;-)

          Seriously, it’s not so much that the butt sticks out or anything. For me, it’s like a string around the finger reminder — if I do those two things (neck & chest) I get in better alignment. Different people have different posture issues — these are the ones that work for me.

  9. Ah, yes, my mom told me that all the time, too! “Posture, Julia, posture!” Seriously. So. Many. Times.

    It used to drive me crazy, but now I’m grateful for it (among many other things she got on my case about). My friends often comment on good my posture is. Sure, I’m guilty of the occasional slouch and could definitely sit in a better position when on my computer, but in general I sit/stand pretty tall.

    I think I’m also a little afraid of becoming one of those elderly women who is permanently hunched over, so it’s standing tall for me! :)

  10. Alexis says:

    Due to a misdiagnose when I was a kid and my wonderful job as a hairdresser standing in contorted positions day after day for 30 years, I just spent over $13,000 and a 2 year time investment to be able to stand up straight. I stand up real straight now!
    One thing about slouching. (I’ve become a figgin posture expert) When you slouch the ligaments that hold the vertebras together are stretched past there normal point, so they loosen. Since they don’t hold the spine together as tightly your vertebrae become misaligned. A misalignment the thickness of a quater can cause nerve conditions like stenosis, disk erosion, arthritis, bone spurs, problems with brain signals going down and back through the spine which can effect the organs. The ligaments do tighten back up — after about of year of not being overstretched. SO DON’T SLOUCH!

    • Katie says:

      You have convinced me that this situation is even more serious than I realized!

      • Alexis says:

        Yeah, it is more serious than just not being attractive. Imagine your poor lungs and stomach when you’re folded in on them.

  11. Tiffany says:

    Oh my gosh Katie! I have just been starting to work on this too! I have noticed in pictures that I’m a sloucher and sitting at a desk all day with a long commute, I’m practically bent in half! I have been trying to make myself sit up, shoulders back, walk tall! Need to strengthen my core!

  12. Bonnie says:

    It helps to stretch out your pecs (like that doorway stretch), and strengthen your upper back muscles. Even with low weight, if you add in some rows, or I, T, W, Y exercises (videos on youtube for sure), it will help you pull back your shoulders more.

  13. I slouch all the time!! It drives my mother crazy!

    I remember Oprah did a segment on it on her show….she said to roll your shoulders back through out the day. Sometimes I will do that…if I remember :)

  14. yan says:

    It used to drive my grandmother nuts that the only time I sat up perfectly straight was on a horse — but I rode for years, and the instructor would yell constantly about posture: ears-shoulders, hips, ankles, all in a line. Besides, if you slouch on a horse, you are liable to fall off that horse.

    I don’t ride anymore, though, and my posture is awful. My boyfriend and I remind each other while driving (we both drive with our chins — you’d know it if you did it). Work is harder, though. I tried an exercise ball, but my desk is just the wrong height. Yoga helps, and I did find a great massage therapist with some chiropractic background who has helped realign things. Now it’s up to me to work on core strength — I know pilates is supposed to be great, but I just don’t “get” the videos and haven’t found a class yet.

  15. Great idea! I think posture in general gets way overlooked and it’s definitely important. Since I started teaching a Pilates class I am much more aware of posture and the core muscles…so my tip would be to include a core workout into your routine as it definitely plays a roll in posture!

  16. Sarah says:

    So glad to see someone else is a sloucher. And while reading this article I made certain to sit up straight. Thanks for that!!!

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