Want to Age Well? Do These 10 Stretches Every Day for Better Posture

The best stretches for better posture loosen up and relieve pain in your spine, chest, neck and back.
Image Credit: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages

If you sit all day long, you've probably noticed it doesn't feel great. While it might be impossible to avoid how you spend the majority of your day, adding some stretches for better posture into your daily routine can ensure your spine, chest, neck and back stay healthy.

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When it comes down to it, having good posture is really about putting your body in the right positions that keep it in good working order.

"Our bodies are created to be in all kinds of positions — for long durations and short durations," Megan-Marie Delegas, DPT, physical therapist and founder of Megan-Marie PT, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "A better way to [think about posture] is that there are more optimal and less optimal positions our bodies can be in for certain goals."

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Bottom line: The more you keep your body moving through its full range of motion, the more mobile you'll stay for years to come.

The 10 Best Stretches for Posture

Below, Delegas shares the 10 best stretches for better posture. They all focus on gently moving your spine and supporting joints (like your hips) the way they're designed to move and opening up often-tight areas like your chest (pecs) and upper back.

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To get the biggest benefit, do these better posture stretches along with strength-based exercises two or three times a week, Delegas says.

Warning

Don’t push through any pinching pain. Stop if any discomfort begins during the stretch or gets worse as you move through your reps, Delegas says.

1. Cat-Cow

This classic stretch is a great — and generally safe — way to bend and flex your spine.

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"Because it's a floor-based movement, there is a lot of stability beneath the body to allow a person to move their spine more freely," Delegas says. It's a good go-to for when your back is feeling stiff or if you just want to warm up your spine for the day.

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Reps 10
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. On an inhale, drop your belly toward the floor as you arch your back and tilt your head back.
  3. On an exhale, round your back up to the ceiling and tuck your chin under.
  4. Slowly repeat this pattern back and forth on each inhale and exhale.
  5. Do 10 reps in each direction. Feel free to hold each position for a little longer if you need more of a stretch.

Tip

“Imagine moving every single vertebrae, one at a time, when doing this movement,” Delegas says. This approach will help you create a mind-body connection — and get more in tune with how your body is feeling and what it needs.

2. Side-Lying T-Spine Rotation

Another good one for when you're feeling tension in your neck or mid back, here's a modified version of the classic T-spine rotation stretch.

"[Spinal rotation] is not a movement we often get in so it's great to place this into a person's movement practice," Delegas says. 'This also opens up and stretches the pecs on the top arm."

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Reps 10
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Lie on your side with your knees bent at 90 degrees and stacked in front of your body.
  2. Extend your arms out to the side along the floor, placing your top arm on your bottom arm. This is the starting position.
  3. Slowly extend your top arm overhead and open it up to the opposite side, rotating your spine along with your arm. Keep your hips, legs and butt in place the entire time.
  4. Circle your arm back over your legs to return it to the starting position.
  5. Do 10 reps in each direction. For a deeper static stretch, hold the opened position for longer.

Tip

  • “Make sure the knees are at least hip height," Delegas says. This ensures rotation is happening from the mid back, ribs and neck.”
  • Follow your moving arm with your eyes. This gives you a little neck stretch, too.
  • “Try taking deep breaths during this movement, as it is a great way to expand the ribs even more,” Delegas says.

3. Prayer Stretch

One of the best stretches for better posture, this move targets your lats, which are large muscles that run down each side of your back. It also stretches your upper arms (triceps) and pecs and taps into spinal mobility.

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Reps 10
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Slowly walk your hands out in front of you until you can bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor.
  3. Then, walk your hands out farther, until your forehead can rest on the floor and you feel a stretch in your lats. You should be in a position similar to child’s pose, except your butt is pointing up toward the ceiling.
  4. Clasp your hands together and bend your elbows to bring your hands toward the base of your neck.
  5. Pause for a moment.
  6. Extend your elbows again to bring your hands back down to the floor.
  7. Repeat for 10 reps. For a deeper static stretch, hold each position for longer.

Tip

  • If you can’t get into position without arching your back, try placing your elbows or hands on yoga blocks.
  • Keep your butt up high.

4. Downward Facing Dog

The overhead arm position in downward dog helps open up your mid back into extension, Delegas says. You'll also feel a stretch in your lats and the back of your arms.

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Reps 10
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Start on all fours, then tuck your toes under and lift your hips up, straightening your legs.
  2. Draw your shoulders down your spine away from your ears.
  3. Elongate your spine and extend the backs of your legs only as far as your hamstrings allow.
  4. Depending on your flexibility, bring your heels down toward the mat or stay on the balls of your feet with your knees bent.
  5. After a few breaths, bring your knees back down to the ground.
  6. Aim for 10 reps. Or, feel free to hold the position if you prefer the static stretch.

Tip

  • “Focus on pushing away from the floor with your hands and getting your sternum (bone in the middle of your chest) through your arms, versus trying to get your legs straight or bouncing through your shoulders,” Delegas says.
  • Make sure to put weight evenly into both hands.
  • Keep your knees bent if you need to. As your hamstrings get more flexible, you can begin to straighten them more and more.

5. Neck Circle

By making circles, you'll stretch your neck in every direction: flexion (pointing your chin toward your chest), extension (pointing your chin toward the ceiling), side bending and rotation, Delegas says.

If your neck feels stiff, or if you've just been sitting hunched over a computer for a long time and know that neck stiffness is likely in your future, this stretch can help.

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Reps 5
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Sit upright with your legs crossed. Sit tall with your shoulders relaxed and core engaged.
  2. Rest your hands on your knees.
  3. Tuck your chin toward your chest. Slowly circle your neck to the right, the back, to the left and then forward again.
  4. Reverse directions and repeat.
  5. Do 5 circles in each direction.

Tip

  • Think about making the biggest circle with your chin, moving each vertebrae one at a time, Delegas says.
  • Your neck may cramp up a little if you’ve never done this before or if you’re especially tight. Go slowly and don’t force a position that feels too uncomfortable.

6. Thoracic Circle

Your thoracic spine, also known as your mid back, can be difficult to stretch since a large part is comprised of your ribcage.

Hugging yourself helps keep you from moving your shoulders so that you can really focus on the spine, Delegas says. "This helps create awareness and small isolated movements in that area of the body."

Reps 5
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Start kneeling with your back straight and tall, shoulders relaxed and core engaged.
  2. Wrap your arms around your body to “hug” yourself.
  3. Slowly bend forward from your mid back.
  4. Circle to the right then the back, extending your mid back.
  5. Then, circle to the left before returning to the center.
  6. Repeat in the other direction.
  7. Do 5 circles in each direction.

Tip

  • If you can’t quite hug yourself, hold a large (and light) medicine ball at your chest and wrap your arms around that instead.
  • The movement should be small. Concentrate on letting your middle spine initiate all the movement, Delegas says.
  • Again, you may cramp up a little if you’ve never done this before or if you’re especially tight. Go slowly and don’t force a position that feels too uncomfortable.

7. Glute Bridge With Deep Breathing

The glute bridge is known for its butt- and hip-strengthening abilities, but it's also helpful for promoting good posture — especially when paired with deep breathing.

"Deep breathing is part of a good upright posture," Delegas says. "Coordinating it with a movement that engages your hips is a two-in-one way of getting the lower body and core involved too, which are supplementary to a healthy posture."

Stretching your hips with this move can also help relieve tension and tame nervous energy when you're feeling stressed.

Reps 5
Type Flexibility and Strength
Activity Stretching
  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the ground and knees bent.
  2. Inhale deeply.
  3. On an exhale, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels and drive your hips up toward the ceiling.
  4. Press out most of the air in your lungs and engage your core muscles.
  5. Raise your hips until your body forms a diagonal line from your knees to your hips to your shoulders.
  6. Pause here for a moment.
  7. Reverse the motion to bring your hips back down to the ground.
  8. Do 5 to 10 reps.

Tip

When breathing, think about filling yourself with air from the bottom up, Delegas says. “Imagine expanding your rib cage in all directions, front-to-back, side-to-side and [around]. When breathing out through pursed lips, draw your bellybutton toward your spine, and then lift your butt by pushing through your feet.”

8. Sphinx Squeeze

Sphinx is a stretch that extends your spine and gently stretches your mid back. Adding the lift at the top engages the muscles around your shoulder blades, which are critical for healthy posture, Delegas says. You'll also feel a nice stretch across your chest and in your abdominals.

Reps 5
Type Flexibility and Strength
Activity Stretching
  1. Lie on your stomach on a mat, with your legs straight behind you and together (or hip-width apart) and toes pointed.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders.
  3. As you inhale, press your hands into the floor and use your back muscles to lift your head and chest off the floor.
  4. Engage your core and glutes throughout the move to keep your body stable and your pelvis pressed into the floor. Keep your neck in neutral alignment the entire time, with your gaze on the floor a few inches in front of you.
  5. With your chest lifted, lift your hands off the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  6. Place your hands back on the floor underneath your shoulders.
  7. Slowly lower your chest back down to the floor.
  8. Do 5 to 10 reps.

Tip

If the squeeze is too much, take it out and hold the chest-elevated position for 30 to 60 seconds.

9. Half-Kneeling Twist

"This is a more active stretch for full neck and back rotation," Delegas says. "It also actively stretches your pectorals and engages shoulder blade muscles, all of which support better posture."

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Reps 5
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Get into a half-kneeling position — your front knee bent with thigh parallel to the floor and your back knee bent with your shin along the floor.
  2. Hold your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder height. Tuck your pelvis under just a bit and engage your entire core. This is the starting position.
  3. Slowly pull the same arm as the forward leg back toward your chest and shoulder, and then out toward the wall behind you. As you move your arm, open your chest up and twist your torso.
  4. Pause for a moment, then bring your arm back to the starting position.
  5. Do 5 to 10 reps on each side.

Tip

  • Make sure you're rotating toward the side of the leg that's forward.
  • “Follow your moving arm with your eyes to get your neck to move in full rotation too,” Delegas says.

10. Fish Stretch

Consider this stretch for better posture an extra challenge. "It creates a big stretch in the front of your neck and gets your mid back to rest in an open and extended position," Delegas says.

She recommends doing it if you're feeling jaw or neck tension, experiencing mid-back or chest tightness or feeling tense and stressed.

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Time 2 Min
Type Flexibility
Activity Stretching
  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands, palms down, underneath your hips.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows and lower down onto your forearms.
  4. Push your chest out and arch your back so that your head is behind you in a relaxed position, hanging down toward the floor. Don’t forget to keep breathing
  5. Extend one leg at a time until they're both straight in front of you.
  6. Hold here for as long as it feels good, up to 2 minutes, as long as you don’t experience any back pain, tingling or dizziness.

Tip

  • If the position isn’t happening for you, don’t force it.
  • When your head is hanging back, try squeezing your shoulder blades to really open up the chest, Delegas says.

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