Whether you spend your days at a desk, on your couch with a laptop or on your feet helping customers, the reality is your posture probably needs some help. And bad posture can do more than just give you a sore neck or back; it can impact your whole body and general wellness.
“Practicing good posture reduces stress on muscles and joints, especially when combined with stretching and exercising,” says Eugene Mello, a certified neuromuscular massage therapist in Oakland, California. If you don’t have good posture naturally, he adds, your back muscles will become tired from trying to sit up straight, causing you to slouch. But with exercise, you can strengthen your back muscles and help make good posture second nature.
Poor posture can even affect your breathing. “With poor posture, we don’t breathe correctly, and when we don’t breathe correctly it inhibits and degenerates all of our organs. What I’m seeing now is so many people, because they’re working from home, are sitting,” says Beverly Hills-based physical therapist Karen Joubert. “If you’ve been working at the computer and you get tired and you’d get up and move and it revives you a little bit. It’s because you’re allowing the diaphragm to expand and you’re allowing the proper amount of oxygen to get into the lungs, in the cells, in the body.”
Let’s get into some details, and some solutions. “I think there’s a lot of great bracing devices,” says Joubert. But what’s important is following the instructions and using them as trainers. “The rule of thumb with those is, 20 minutes every two hours, you take it off,” Joubert explains. “Then your job is to mimic what that postural brace was doing so you get those postural muscles to kick in and work. It’s hard to do.”
Then there are things like strength training, lumbar cushions, special chairs and more, all of which we detail below. Of course, every body is individual, so be sure to speak with your health care provider if you’re experiencing any back pain or other issues, or are interested in trying something new that you think might help.
Back posture correctors
AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbell Pairs ($35.55; amazon.com)
If you’re looking to improve your back (and body) strength, working out regularly is one of the most obvious places to start. “Move intentionally,” says Dr. Lars Gunnar, founder of Vital Form Chiropractic in Pasadena, California. “Standing eight hours a day is as bad as sitting eight hours a day. Get up, move, stretch, lift, run.” To keep your strength, Gunnar recommends lifting weights at least twice a week. This set of dumbbells, which can start at just 2 pounds, is a beginning weightlifter’s dream.
Gaiam Essentials Yoga Block, Set of 2 (starting at $10.99; amazon.com)
“Yoga blocks are a great option to use in a restorative way,” Silverlake, California-based fitness trainer and nutritionist Sam Garcia says. “You can put them underneath your upper or lower back to help release tension and open the body.” Gaiam’s set of two blocks is Amazon’s bestseller.
Upright Go Posture Trainer and Corrector for Back ($59.95, originally $79.95; amazon.com)
You’ve probably seen the Instagram promotions for this tool or even read our review, but if you haven’t, it’s a strapless corrector that sticks to your upper back and gently vibrates to remind you to stand up straight and improve your posture on your own. “I like it because it’s user-friendly and it’s tech-savvy,” says Joubert.
Vive Lumbar Roll ($12.99; amazon.com)
If you’re sitting down for the majority of the day, you want to make sure you’re supporting your musculoskeletal system. This firm lumbar roll can help relieve pain and pressure on the hips and spine by promoting proper posture, and it easily attaches right onto the chair you sit in most at work or at home.
Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair ($69.98; amazon.com)
Though it may look extreme at first, this chair (which can be used for yoga and exercise) has been a hit for people looking to augment their posture. One reviewer with “constant spine problems” writes, “When seated, whether I’m more toward the front or up against the backrest, I immediately notice a difference in my posture.”
Gaiam Balance Disc (starting at $21.98; amazon.com)
If you’re not ready to go full ball chair, the same brand also makes this neat disc that mimics the sensation (and results) of the ball chair, allowing you to both practice balance and improve your posture in a more subtle manner.
ComfiLife Premium Comfort Seat Cushion ($29.95; amazon.com)
If you spend a lot of time in the car, Gunnar suggests investing in a driving seat wedge. “It forces you to sit up straight and engages your core muscles.” This top choice comes with more than 14,000 reviews, with customers using it on everything from their car seat to their work chair.
Eivotor Posture Corrector ($17.88; amazon.com)
Made out of elastic and nylon that comfortably fits over your shoulders, this posture corrector vibrates when you’re out of alignment to help train you to stand up straight. Though not all experts agree on the efficacy of products like this, at least one study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that, at the very least, braces can act as a reminder to stand up straighter.
BackEmbrace Posture Corrector ($59.99; amazon.com)
Built with stretch for comfort, and available in black and white or pink pebble, this is possibly the most comfortable posture corrector we’ve tried. Made in the US by a women-owned brand, you can wear this corrector for 20 to 30 minutes doing just about anything.
Mercase Posture Corrector ($23.99; amazon.com)
With a double strap around the waist and back, offering extra lumbar support, this highly rated corrector is made from a honeycomb mesh for comfort and breathability.
Comfy Brace Posture Corrector Back Brace ($21.97, originally $31.97; amazon.com)
This highly rated corrector helps align your posture, taking pressure off of key areas, which helps to alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain.
KXLY Ergonomic Aluminum Laptop Computer Stand ($36.99, amazon.com)
This stand will raise your laptop or notebook to eye level, working to fight “tech neck” strain from looking down. “If you’re sitting in front of a screen most of the day, it is so important to look at the position of your screen and laptop,” Joubert says. “If you are looking down, you are doing yourself a big disservice.”
Vivo Clamp-On 40-Inch Ergonomic Desk Shelf ($79.99; amazon.com)
Keep your monitor at eye level with this desk shelf you can easily clamp on to your desk — or your kitchen table. Remember, says Joubert, “Our head weighs anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds. When we are looking down, that increase in pressure can be up to 60 pounds of pressure on the spine.”
Mind Reader 3-Position Adjustable Height Ergonomic Footrest ($32.99, originally $66; macys.com)
A good footrest under your desk is a great way to help with your posture as well. Says Joubert, “The rule of thumb is, when you’re sitting, your knees should be in line with your hips and your heels should be underneath your knees.” This well-priced footrest helps to improve posture and circulation by keeping feet and legs elevated.
Alera Soft Cushioned Ergonomic Footrest ($81.99; wayfair.com)
“I love those foot plates because it makes you more symmetrical when you’re sitting,” says Joubert. Top rated by Wayfair shoppers, this cushioned footrest helps relieve strain on the feet and helps you sit straight while you’re working.
Safco Products Ergonomic Industrial Footrest ($157.99, originally $227; wayfair.com)
Made from steel, this footrest has a textured anti-slip cover and adjusts to work at different heights. One reviewer writes, “It’s high enough, as it was used with work stools. This was perfect!”